Is "all one" in Buddhism?

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Is "all one" in Buddhism?

Postby Luke » Sun Apr 04, 2010 4:07 pm

One of the popular phrases in the New Age books out there is "all is one."

In my opinion, this is too horribly imprecise to be considered a Buddhist statement without clarifying the terms involved. I have a friend who is interested in various New Age books and philosophies and this idea of "all is one" and "all religions are really one" seems to be the core of her spirituality, and she was quite shocked when I didn't immediately agree with her.

To me, this "all is one" concept seems to be really some generalized idea about "god" which is reexpressed as some kind of eternal essence (like the Hindu concept of "atman" which Buddhism clearly denies).

My discussion about this with my friend made me realize how truly unique Buddhism is among world religions. Most religions are theistic or at least believe in some absolute concept. Buddhism is one of the very few nontheistic religions in the world, and negating the concept of an atman using emptiness seems to be at the very heart of Buddhism.

What do you think? To what extent is the statement "all is one" true in Buddhism?

All I can think of is that we are all united by cause and effect and that the true nature of our minds is vast like space, although our mindstreams are independent. "Merging oneself with god" and "Merging oneself with the universal mind" are not Buddhist concepts as far as I know. This fact seems to shock a lot of New Age people because they have little idea what Buddhism really is.
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Re: Is "all one" in Buddhism?

Postby muni » Sun Apr 04, 2010 4:40 pm

Should say no or careful how we see that, Luke.

No separation in interdependent emptiness, in non duality is not the same as just to say "all one". What one?

One way the " all one" expression can be used is like precious Tenzin Palmo gives one example here.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sOsQa7sf6FE
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Re: Is "all one" in Buddhism?

Postby meindzai » Sun Apr 04, 2010 5:10 pm

Most Buddhists I know have gone though or are going through the "all is one" and "All religions are the same" and "we're saying the same thing just with different language," thing. I know I did, and I remember my initial disappointment when I started to realize that this was not the case at all in Buddhism. Some people still have a bit of the "fear of god" in them, so they like to keep one foot in Buddhism while keeping the other in some kind of theism. It's like an ambivelant Pascal's wager.

Actually what I pretty much believe now is that "All religions except Buddhism are pretty much the same." Most are some variation on the "all is one" or "let's all be god" themes. Buddhism is the *only* one that teaches that all of these views are still self views.

-M
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Re: Is "all one" in Buddhism?

Postby Indrajala » Sun Apr 04, 2010 5:26 pm

Huayan thought is notable for using the metaphor of Indra's net, which symbolizes reality. Basically, one imagines a infinite expanse of a net and at every cross section of that net there hangs a mirror-like gem that reflects all the other gems. If one were to mark a dot on one gem it would appear in all the other gems. Essentially this demonstrates mutual interdependence.

From one perspective, one gem "contains" all the others, but still retains a relative individual characteristic that is dependent on the totality of everything else. From the other perspective, there is just totality, but that totality is dependent upon individuals. There is no total without parts and no parts without a total.

In more everyday terms, all living beings are clearly interconnected and interdependent on each other. If defilements accumulate on one gem, then the whole of the net becomes that much more dull and dim. If the defilements on even just one gem (perhaps your gem), then the whole of the net becomes brighter. Thus it is the optimal course of action to clear the defilements off of your gem and to help others do the same.

One might suggest from this metaphor that "all is one", but that would be misleading. In Huayan thought the idea is that while one "contains" the totality (the universe in a single particle of dust), on the reverse that totality is dependent upon relative individuals which have their own unique characteristics.

From karmic theory this is easily demonstrable: the results of my past actions (the karmic seeds) will ripen only in my life (or my mental continuum) and not anybody else's. If everything could be said to be "all one" as some suggest, then the karmic seeds of one individual could ripen in anyone else's mental continuum. You could bear the results of my karma and vice-versa. However, we know this is not so, and thus we can declare that while there is a relative totality, there are still relative individual entities within the larger process -- individual continuities without absolute identities.
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Re: Is "all one" in Buddhism?

Postby Indrajala » Sun Apr 04, 2010 5:42 pm

meindzai wrote:Most Buddhists I know have gone though or are going through the "all is one" and "All religions are the same" and "we're saying the same thing just with different language," thing. I know I did, and I remember my initial disappointment when I started to realize that this was not the case at all in Buddhism. Some people still have a bit of the "fear of god" in them, so they like to keep one foot in Buddhism while keeping the other in some kind of theism. It's like an ambivelant Pascal's wager.

Actually what I pretty much believe now is that "All religions except Buddhism are pretty much the same." Most are some variation on the "all is one" or "let's all be god" themes. Buddhism is the *only* one that teaches that all of these views are still self views.

-M


I think a lot of western Buddhists don't feel it is appropriate to really commit to one religion and dismiss the others as ultimately false because that would make them come across as too religious and summon images of bible thumpers, which is often what they are rejecting when they seek out Buddhism.

Also, if you say you think other religions are ultimately false and misleading, then you'll probably come across as intolerant of others' religions, which is taboo in society and frowned upon.

That being said, however, the greater thinkers of Buddhism and Shakyamuni himself all readily laid the hammer down and declared that the teachings of externalists were false and did not lead to liberation. They might indeed lead one to heavenly rebirth, but that is still samsaric and ultimately misleading and incapable of allowing for liberation.

Basically, anything that is not in line with the teaching of the Tathagata is merely palliative and not curative. The only secure refuge is the Triple Gem because worldly gods and spirits, including Brahma, are like us trapped in samsara.

In English material this kind of thought doesn't seem to appear too much, but recently I've read Master Sheng Yen and Master Yinshun who both say the same thing: refuge in worldly gods is misleading and the only secure refuge is the Triple Gem. They don't sugar coat anything, so to speak.
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Re: Is "all one" in Buddhism?

Postby muni » Sun Apr 04, 2010 7:07 pm

Through reading here, saw this about the empty interdependency, the words are very simple but in clear luminosity of "mind" the interaction opens the deluded walls of the inherent one and compassion can flood without effort. Then it may be simple. :smile:

You are me, and I am you.
Isn't it obvious that we "inter-are"?
You cultivate the flower in yourself,
so that I will be beautiful.

I transform the garbage in myself,
so that you will not have to suffer.

I support you;
you support me.
I am in this world to offer you peace;
you are in this world to bring me joy. Thich Nhat Hahn.
http://www.poetry-chaikhana.com/H/HanhT ... elatio.htm
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Re: Is "all one" in Buddhism?

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Mon Apr 05, 2010 8:07 am

That poem is beautiful muni, thanks :)
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Re: Is "all one" in Buddhism?

Postby msmedusa » Mon Apr 05, 2010 11:05 am

Ngawang Drolma wrote:That poem is beautiful muni, thanks :)


:thumbsup: My sentiments too. Thank you .
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Re: Is "all one" in Buddhism?

Postby Huifeng » Mon Apr 05, 2010 12:27 pm

Luke wrote:One of the popular phrases in the New Age books out there is "all is one."

In my opinion, this is too horribly imprecise to be considered a Buddhist statement without clarifying the terms involved. I have a friend who is interested in various New Age books and philosophies and this idea of "all is one" and "all religions are really one" seems to be the core of her spirituality, and she was quite shocked when I didn't immediately agree with her.

To me, this "all is one" concept seems to be really some generalized idea about "god" which is reexpressed as some kind of eternal essence (like the Hindu concept of "atman" which Buddhism clearly denies).

My discussion about this with my friend made me realize how truly unique Buddhism is among world religions. Most religions are theistic or at least believe in some absolute concept. Buddhism is one of the very few nontheistic religions in the world, and negating the concept of an atman using emptiness seems to be at the very heart of Buddhism.

What do you think? To what extent is the statement "all is one" true in Buddhism?

All I can think of is that we are all united by cause and effect and that the true nature of our minds is vast like space, although our mindstreams are independent. "Merging oneself with god" and "Merging oneself with the universal mind" are not Buddhist concepts as far as I know. This fact seems to shock a lot of New Age people because they have little idea what Buddhism really is.


At least to this degree:

In the early suttas, see that the "all" (= aggregates, elements, sources, and several other classificatory systems) is to be regarded as impermanent, dissatisfactory and not self.
In the Theravada, see the Patisambhidamagga on knowing all dhammas as one through the sense of being "such" (tatha).
In the Sarvastivada, see the Mahavibhasa on not self and emptiness (= not mine, for the Sarvastivadins) as the only two aspects of reality that apply to all four noble truths (= all phenomena).
In the Prajnaparamita, see the notion that the suchness (tathata) of all dharmas is one, not two or otherwise. This is applicable to the conditioned and unconditioned, etc. whatever categories that fully subsume "all".
In the mid to late period Yogacara, see that all phenomena are arisings from the store-cognition (alayavijnana).

At least to that degree.
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Re: Is "all one" in Buddhism?

Postby KeithBC » Mon Apr 05, 2010 5:28 pm

Luke wrote:One of the popular phrases in the New Age books out there is "all is one."

In my opinion, this is too horribly imprecise to be considered a Buddhist statement without clarifying the terms involved.

I agree that it is too imprecise to be useful. On the other hand, saying that that sentiment is false is also too imprecise.

Most religions have a mystical element (using the term in the precise, Religious Studies way, not the vague "=exotic" way), and Buddhism is no exception. The essence of the mystical experience is that all is (in some way) one. The mystical element in Buddhism is the experience of indescribable suchness or Buddha nature that is the same everywhere, in all phenomena. There is not a lot of difference between mystical traditions in different religions - that, after all is the nature of mysticism.

On the other hand, like you say, identifying this with some kind of eternal essence is not part of Buddhism. Any claim that all religions are essentially the same is false, since there are many contradictions that involve mutually exclusive, irreconcilable beliefs. I have no hesitation in saying that I believe that the teachings of [insert name or religion here] are false. It doesn't mean that I have all the answers, but it does mean that i have beliefs.

Om mani padme hum
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Re: Is "all one" in Buddhism?

Postby mudra » Sat Apr 10, 2010 7:43 am

I'm with you on this Keith (BTW nice to see you again!!).

If we examine the four kinds of impermanent phenomena, at least from the (Tibetan) Mahayana perspective:

1. without begining and without end (e.g. the mind stream)
2. without beginning but with end (e.g samsara)
3. with beginning but without end (e.g. Buddhahood, death etc)
4. with beginning and with end (e.g. our bodies)

it's fairly clear that the nature of the mind stream is ever changing but also continues without end. Our samsaric condition ends, but the mindstream continues, enlightened etc. It's not like all the Buddha's merge into one big Buddha in the sky. This is partly how from the Mahayana (esp Tantric) perspective we posit the presence of the Sambhogakaya etc, the continuation of Buddha's after para-nirvana, etc.

I think the meaning of this "all is one" has been so distorted and facilely interpreted that it has become almost meaningless. To perceive that all phenomena integrate in an interactive way with each other, to perceive that all sentient beings have the highest degree of interconnectedness is one thing, but nowadays if we really have that perception and say "All is one" the misinterpretations are endless.

I recently got into a very uncomfortable situation on with a fellow Buddhist (Gelug) who kind of took exception after I tried to point out that his statement "There are many Christians who have THE pure view of the Buddha" was a tad off the mark. I tried to point out that even most of us Buddhists, many of whom are trained in the right view, don't necessarily have that realization yet. And that Christians who hold to a reified view of "God" were unlikely to have "Pure View". They might easily have a pure hearted view, but it's not the same as THE Pure View that might be understood in a Buddhist context.

That was interpreted as me saying that Christians are worthless or whatever, which is far from the case. Predictably Mother Teresa came into the discussion, and someone piped up that she was a Bodhisattva. Again I put two feet in and said "I don't think so". Again this was interpreted as denigration of the highest order. (it gets tiresome trying to explain what a Bodhisattva really is)

This isn't the case as I see it. I think there are Christians like Mother Teresa who have incredibly high realizations of love and compassion for example, the level of which I can only dream of. They are way ahead. But essentially, aside from some universal characteristics (which are important!) they are way ahead on THEIR path.

Hey do we go around claiming that HH the Dalai Lama is a Christian or Muslim saint? What's with this infantile glossing over basic facts about really?

Do we really need to chant "All-is-one" to be kind to each other, no matter color, religion etc?
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Re: Is "all one" in Buddhism?

Postby catmoon » Sat Apr 10, 2010 11:23 am

All is one. Hmm.


Perhaps it is true in a sense. I have before me a blue cup. It only appears to be an object separate from all others because of a boundary created by my mind, a boundary that separates the cup from all other things. But the boundary has no real existence, it is just an imagination. So in that sense the entire universe of objects is really a single object. It's a natural consequence of applied emptiness, of the removal of imputed qualities in things.
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Re: Is "all one" in Buddhism?

Postby mudra » Sun Apr 11, 2010 2:36 am

catmoon wrote:All is one. Hmm.


Perhaps it is true in a sense. I have before me a blue cup. It only appears to be an object separate from all others because of a boundary created by my mind, a boundary that separates the cup from all other things. But the boundary has no real existence, it is just an imagination. So in that sense the entire universe of objects is really a single object. It's a natural consequence of applied emptiness, of the removal of imputed qualities in things.



Actually the natural consequence of "applied emptiness" as you put it, would be that there is no 'ultimate thingness', one or multiple, out there or anywhere.
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Re: Is "all one" in Buddhism?

Postby muni » Sun Apr 11, 2010 6:31 pm

[quote="catmoon"]All is one. Hmm.


Perhaps it is true in a sense. I have before me a blue cup. quote]

:hug: Interdependency.
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Re: Is "all one" in Buddhism?

Postby Stephen » Wed Apr 14, 2010 6:48 am

The only way that "all is one" can be a truth and not delusional thinking is if taken to mean that we are all part of the ever-changing process we call reality. This universe is a process; there is no constant, except change itself.
The "self", which is a construct of the mind, is non-self. It is not us, and we are not it. This self blinds us to reality; it is our Mara, our Satan, our Hades. Cast it out and behold the path to freedom.
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Re: Is "all one" in Buddhism?

Postby Dana » Thu Apr 15, 2010 10:51 am

Stephen wrote:The only way that "all is one" can be a truth and not delusional thinking is if taken to mean that we are all part of the ever-changing process we call reality. This universe is a process; there is no constant, except change itself.

:stirthepot:
Then how does TNH say this?

"You are me, and I am you."

So glad that someone posted this passage. :smile:
I ought to find where an eminent Buddhist uses the word soul, too...... :rolling:

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Re: Is "all one" in Buddhism?

Postby meindzai » Thu Apr 15, 2010 4:18 pm

Been starting to read all my Zen stuff again and it's definately been challenging to me to find this type of sentiment expressed so often. How to accept "oneness" and "nonduality" without falling into the trap of eternalism? Zen often borrows metaphors from Hinduism, such as Indra's net. What if I gave the platform sutra of Hui Neng to somebody following a Brahminic/Vedic/Hindu school of thought? I almost feel that they would relate very well to the experience - which might seem nice, but at the same time, the Buddha spent so much time teaching against eternalistic views, and teaching not-self.

I think the answer is somewhere in those teachings - emptiness, not-self, etc. I'm looking forward to asking some Zen teachers about all this next month. (month residency begins may 4th)

-M
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Re: Is "all one" in Buddhism?

Postby Karma Dondrup Tashi » Thu Apr 15, 2010 4:59 pm

"One" is in duality to everything that is "plurality". So "not-two" doesn't just mean "one". This is why even in Advaita Brahman isn't a monad.
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Re: Is "all one" in Buddhism?

Postby meindzai » Thu Apr 15, 2010 5:54 pm

Karma Dondrup Tashi wrote:"One" is in duality to everything that is "plurality". So "not-two" doesn't just mean "one".


I agree, but I don't think this point is emphasized enough by modern teachers.

-M
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Re: Is "all one" in Buddhism?

Postby Karma Dondrup Tashi » Thu Apr 15, 2010 7:23 pm

By the way very nice to see you again meindzai.

:namaste:
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