MAYA-GAIA INTRODUCTION & SITEMAP         Update 05 22 08

Note: My maya-gaia website, evolving since 1997, is a chronicle of my passing all considered opinion
through the lens of my Nirvikalpa Samadhi with both an open-mind and healthy skepticism.

The Integrationalists and the Non-Dualists by Peter Holleran
- a thesis presented as an imaginary conversation between contrasting points of view at Wisdom's Goldenrod Center for Philosophic Studies on the relationship between realization and transformation.

Keywords: Nirvikalpa Samadhi, Sahaja Samadhi, Ramana Maharshi, Paul Brunton, Anthony Damiani, Peter Holleran, J. Krishnamurti, Michael Hall, John Wheeler, Advaita, non-dual realization, nonduality, bhakti yoga, jnana yoga, Zen, Pure Land Buddhism, Rumi, realization, grace, overself, Upanishad, Mahabharata, Brahman Sutra, Kuan Yin

A Maya-Gaia review - Holleran's website presents numerous essays with unique insight into the arcane traditions. Here a philosophical naturalist takes us on an exploration of the nondual ecosystem for an examination of the diverse species - from the proto-Vedic to the neo-advaita mutations - that are involved in the evolution of an enlightened post-modern world view. The following are excerpts that I found especially useful for integrating the Nirvikalpa Samadhi experience particularly in regards to support for the theme I put forth in The Godhead Experience and elsewhere - that awakening is not an award for right practice of jnana or bhakti or any other yoga but is an unqualified gift of God's grace that appears to arise in synchronicity with a state of absolute desirelessness (and subsequent free-will to surrender). At the end I agree with the admonition that hidden within the traditions are the gems by which one is helped to assemble (with bold discrimination) the treasure of enlightenment from the raw experience of spontaneous Nirvikalpa.

Anthony=Anthony Damiani, PB=Paul Brunton and other sources are referenced in a comprehensive bibliography.

As Anthony said in Standing In Your Own Way: "Some seek non-duality, others duality. They do not know the Truth, which is the same at all times and everywhere, which is devoid of both duality and non-duality." - Dattatreya, The Avadhuta Gita

"Don't kid yourself. Don't come to me from the point of view that the ego doesn't exist, because it's been around as long as the Overself [Soul] has been projecting itself, manifesting itself through some kind of life. The residue of all that living becomes a tendency which you're going to find is perhaps not a permanent entity, but good enough to drive you up the wall for the next indefinite number of incarnations....As soon as you say the ego is "empty" then you're in for it. I don't think you understand why I regard any talk like that as utterly futile and even esoterically stupid. I don't care who says it. Anyone who thinks he's going to outwit his ego is in for a real rough time. That's why I don't like to call it empty. I like to think of it as a real fire-breathing dragon.....That's why I sometimes tease you by saying that anyone who tells me the ego is illusory is out of his mind. He hasn't even encountered it yet." (9) You feel the lightening flash is of the Nous, whereas PB used the term in describing the first glimpse of the Soul, the stable realization of which he calls sahaja. V.S. Iyer, in Lights on Advaita - selected writings (on the WG website) likewise describes the lightning flash as a glimpse of sahaja:

"Sleep is .. used as an illustration of non-duality. Even in the waking state if mind were sharp we can get the lightning-flashes of sleep; it is then called sahaja samadhi; only we do not notice them. Philosophy will not end if you confine it to the waking state: it will always produce endless ideas amd hence endless schools of thought. But only in the non-duality of sleep do all ideas die, when this is brought into the waking state as sahaja samadhi." (15.32) Sufi Nasr also concurs with the Sants that for such a process of realization to fulfill itself requires baraka, or grace, mediated through a shaik or Murshid i Kamil, the completed one, the peerless Master or Realized Soul. Rumi in his Mathnavi stated:

"Choose a Pir, for without a Pir this journey is exceedingly full of woe and affright and danger. Without an escort you are bewildered (even) on a road you have travelled many times (before). Do not then travel alone on a Way that you have not seen at all, do not turn your head away from the Guide...In the spiritual journey, whoever travels without a guide, needs two hundred years for a two-day journey." (23) I: I still can't help feeling that something’s missing here. Might not that be a version of what the Zen masters call "the stink of enlightenment"? or what the Tibetan Buddhists mean when they say "don’t confuse realization with liberation?" Garma C.C. Chang points out the distinction made in both Zen and Ch’an Buddhism between the awakening to prajna-truth (or the immediate awakening to transcendental wisdom or emptiness) and Cheng-teng-cheuh (sabyaksambodhi), which is the final, perfect, complete enlightenment of Buddhahood: The key words there for me are "total transformation is the only goal", and "conditioned beliefs continue relentlessly requiring persistent work after the deepest awakenings." This is what I feel is a balanced presentation, quite different than some of the more radical non-dualists. (Remember what PB once said about the teaching of J. Krishnamurti? - "absolutely correct, but totally useless for most of his students.") Let's look at Plotinus again:

"All things live by the Soul in its entirety. It is all present everywhere like the Spirit (Nous) which begat it, both in its unity and in its universality. The heaven, vast and various as it is, is one by the power of the Soul, and by it is this universe of ours Divine. The Sun too is Divine, being the abode of Soul, and so are the stars: and we ourselves, if we are worth anything, are so on account of the Soul." . . . " Now our Soul is of one form with the World Soul, and if we remove from it all that is adventitious, and consider it in its state of purity, we will see how precious the essence of the Soul is; far more precious than anything bodily.....Since then the Soul is so precious and Divine a thing; by It we can attain to union with the Spirit, and with It raise ourselves to the Supreme." (Ennead v. I. 3.)


"Whoever invokes the Overself's Grace ought to be informed that he is also invoking a long period of self-improving toil and self-purifying affliction necessary to fit him to receive that Grace."

Farid al-Din ‘Attar said:

"When God recognized my sincerity, the first grace that He accorded me was that he removed the chaff of the self from before me." (36)

And once again, from the peerless Rumi:

"First he pampered me with a hundred favors. Then he melted me with the fires of sorrows. After he sealed me with the seal of Love. I became Him. Then, he threw my self out of me."

PB felt likewise:

"By freeing himself largely of attachments- and especially the subtlest yet largest of all, attachment to the ego--his heart is emptied. Into the void thus created, Grace can flow. Mystics who complain of the soul's dark night are led to know that it is a process whereby this space in the heart is being increased, a crushing of self into dust, to make room for Grace. If they are thus led to nothingness, let them remember that the Overself is no-thing." (40)

deCaussade several hundred years ago stated specifically that the way to union is not through illumination:

"I know how much suffering this operation entails. The poor soul feels as if it would become utterly annihilated, but for all that, it is only nearer the true life. In fact, the more we realize our nothingness the nearer we are to truth...You must not then be surprised at the violent resistance it offers, especially when the soul experiences mortal anguish in receiving the death-blow to this self-love. The suffering one feels then is like that of a person in agony, and it is only through this painful agony and by the spiritual death which follows it that one can arrive at the fulness of divine life and an intimate union with God....For the time that these crucifying operations continue, the understanding, the memory, and the will are in a fearful void, in nothingness. Love this immense void since God deigns to fill it [with what? - insight: reality, truth, being, Sat-Chit-Ananda!]; love this nothingness since the infinitude of God is there." (Book Seven, Letter IX)


Changing the subject a little, I tend to be of the opinion that one will sooner or later need grace, that grace is more than a concept, and has a hand to play in this affair. Most teachers, even non-dualists, admit this. Michael Hall said so, although he confessed that he never thought he would end up using the word. Ramana said that if the longing was there, realization would be forced on you whether you wanted it or not. And what did PB say grace was? - a "beneficent emanation from the Overself". Moreover, he added:

"It is not within the power of man to finish either the purificatory work or its illumination sequel: his Overself, by its action within his psyche, must bring that about. This activating power is grace." (42)

ND: That Overself is a troubling concept.

I: Yes, I agree with you. Even Anthony threw in the towel in one class discussion and basically said "the Overself is God".

ND: He just said that because people were having a hard time understanding him that night, and he wanted to give them a feeling of devotion.

I: Perhaps, but he did say that this side of manifestation all three of the Primary Principles could be considered as God, the Absolute, the Void, or Mind. Bottom line, the emanating grace is real, there is a power greater than man, to which we must pray. Of course, grace itself has also been spoken of in paradoxical ways. Ramana said that grace is always there, being the same as the Self, while Kirpal Singh said grace is always there, but added that sometimes it gushes forth.

ND: I am uncomfortable with the phrase "gushes forth". It doesn't sound very philosophical.

I: Yes, I know, but PB seemed to believe in something like that. Personally, I was never too keen on the idea that "grace is always there" either! I want tangible help in feeling it. Ramana seemed to nicely reconcile the two positions in the following quote:

"Here it is impossible for you to be without effort. When you go deeper, it is impossible for you to make any effort...The very fact that you are possessed of the quest of the Self is a manifestation of the divine grace. It is effulgent in the Heart, the inner being, the real Self. It draws you from within. You have to attempt to get in from without. Your attempt is vichara [inquiry], the deep inner movement is grace. That is why I say there is no real vichara without grace, nor is there grace active for him who is without vichara. Both are necessary." (43)

ND: The non-dualists say there is no need to attempt to go within, and that even the heart-on-the-right business Ramana spoke about is unnecessary. Even he occasionally said it wasn't necessary.

I: Yes, that may be true for some, perhaps many, but I don't think we can get around the fact that we need grace - even if there is no "we". John Wheeler says that it is just an unnecessary and illusory concept, but I have a hard time buying that. I think some of the radical non-dualists can get a bit dogmatic in their delivery. They are quick to fall back on the strict advaita insistence on atma-jnana as the direct and only means of liberation, but neglect to mention that in his commentaries on the Brahma Sutras Sankara himself also mentions grace:

"With respect to Shankara's attitude toward yoga, there are two passages in the Brahma Sutra Bhashya that stand out as anomalies. In his comments on Brahma Sutra 3.2.24, Shankara says that in perfect concentration (pranidhana), certain yogins see (pashyanti) the Self, free from all plurality (prapancha) and they do so by means of absorption (dhyana) and devotion (bhakti). He then goes on to refer to those passages from the Katha Upanishad, Mundaka Upanishad and Mahabharata that speak of "seeing" the self while in meditation or through the purification of the mind. His commentary here parallels comments made at Brahma Sutra 3.2.5. There, Shankara says that occasionally, the supreme Lord (parameshvara) dispels the ignorance of those who meditate devotedly (abhidhyayate) on Him and through his grace (prasada) these yogins are given extraordinary powers of "sight [i.e, "seeing the Self"]." (The Neo-Vedanta of Swami Vivekananda: Part One, from

It is also interesting that one of the keystones of non-dualism, The Heart Sutra ("form is emptiness, emptiness is form"), is attributed, unlike other Mahayana scriptures, not to the Buddha, but to Avalokitesvara, or, in its feminine manifestation, Kuan Yin. In Pure Land Buddhism, Kuan Yin is described as the "Bark of Salvation". Along with Amitabha Buddha and the bodhisattva Mahastamaprata, She temporarily liberates beings out of the Wheel of Samsara into the Pure Land, where they will have the chance to accrue the necessary merit so as to be a Buddha in one lifetime. One can believe this or not, but maybe grace and devotion are not illusory concepts after all.


Ramana considered surrender to the Lord equal to self inquiry as a spiritual path. Schwarz, essentially an advaitist, notably remarked:

"'The squeaky wheel gets the grease.’ If you don’t invoke the Self by making the right efforts how will it know that you are dissatisfied? From the Self’s point of view you are just fine in your Self ignorance. Why should ‘grace’ happen unless you make a fuss?"

PB and Anthony looked at it this way:

"Without the fullness of the understanding that comes from penetrating into the World-Idea - in other words, the full development of the faculty of understanding which comes to a soul through the World-Idea - in the trance state one would be utterly unprepared to understand the mysterious Void... (End Excerpts)