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The Discourse of the Beyond and Nondualism: Reflections on Aṣṭāvakra Śankara and Ibn Arabi

Nondualism as presented in Aṣṭāvakra Gītā, Śankara and Ibn Arabi implies the thesis that there is no need to invoke any notion of abstract beyond conceived in opposition to the world. The hypothesis of transcendental beyond needed to be affirmed as an object of faith and a proposition is here argued to be superfluous. Idealistic mystical philosophies of diverse traditions are not speculative ontological inquiries but fundamentally ways of looking at the world and their cognitive claims are often misrepresented with simplistic label of transcendentalism. Their primary interest is existential and psycho-spiritual and not any explanatory theory regarding this or the other world. Though explicitly upholding that the world as ordinarily experienced is not to be equated with Reality as such their view of transcendence needs to be understood in more nuanced way that appropriates much of reservations against transcendentalist thought currents today. I first quote some verses from Aṣṭāvakra Gītā that question a simplistic transcendentalist interpretation of Vedānta or Sufism and plead for seeing nondualism as an existential therapy that results in changed attitude towards everything by change in self-definition rather than a speculative metaphysical inquiry or philosophy in the modern sense of the term. The key arguments of the paper are that for achieving liberation or enlightenment we need not invoke any notion of beyond as a separate existential or conceptual category and then question, debate, relate to or be skeptical of it. Nothing needs to be done to access any proposed beyond of thought. Absolute receptivity or innocence alone is demanded and discoveries of this state can’t be expressed in conceptual terms and this means that all ideological battles or appropriations of Vedāntic and Sufi “position” are suspect.

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