The Layers Of ‘Not-Two’


‘In this world of suchness
there is neither self nor other-than-self.
To come directly into harmony with this reality
just say when doubt rises “not two”

The Classic verse on ‘Not-Two’ is the Hsin-Hsin Ming of Jiànzhì Sēngcàn [529-613 CE], the Third Chinese Patriarch of C’han-Zen. There are many others, beginning with the Sanskrit, but none so rightly revered.

I stumbled on a Site that happily offers it in its numerous translations: Hsin-Hsin Ming. [Thank You, Terebess.] 

But watch out. Many of them interpret the verses as implying such binaries as achievement and failure, perfection and imperfection, gain and loss and so on, terms that are perfect strangers to Shūnyam. 

I once sat in on a Sangha meeting where the learned monk was whipping up a lather: ‘Not-Two; Not-Three; Not-Four’, he pounded.

This is not what ‘Not-Two’ means. It is not a swipe at all notions of plurality. Once you miss the significance of ‘Two’, the fundamental building-block, the DNA of all Man-Made Models, you can go all the way to quadrillion. And it wouldn’t make any difference. 

‘Not-Two’ is a statement of Truth, not an appellation, not a name for an ‘Object’ [concept, process, state, sentiment, anything you can objectify]. And the confounding of ‘Not-Two’ as a conventional reference, a name, is pervasive in the historical literature.

‘Not-Two’ actively locks in the Subject in a verbal hog-tie. You may not not say a word [or write a Post] about it. Except to call it ‘Not-Two’.

‘Not-Two’: Àdvaitham, a term that long predates Shūnyam. Yājñavalkya defined it as simply: ‘Neither inside, nor outside’.

It has lots of layers to it and you won’t really notice them until you slip on one. But the three most relevant can be readily listed.

The first is the assumption of the ‘Independent and Separate ‘Self’. The ‘Two’ of the ‘Subject-Object Divide’. [‘Self and World’; ‘God and Man’, and so on.]

Once the First Cleaving is effected, it immediately and in parallel births the foundational twins: ‘Is and Is-Not’, that hold up all constructed Modeled Views. 

Secondly, the open-ended: ‘Not’.

Thirdly, our reflexive tendency to abstract in Sign and Symbol [‘Doubles that Refer’] and hence make our World amenable to Logic and Language.

In particular, expressions formulated as ‘Sign’, and further extended in Logic, Language and ‘Thought’. And then cheerfully contracted or expanded until we get seriously lost.

The ‘Subject-Object’ Divide [as in ‘Self and World’] doesn’t originate in heaven but in the very terrestrial assumption of an independent, separated ‘Self’ [a dressed-up Subject].

Cut once; get two. A pair is the first and minimal unit of division, the elemental DNA, the fundamental building block, of every Man-Made Model. The expansions of Model are done through referential systems, mainly Language and Logic as mediated through the Meta-Trinity [see the subsequent Posts].

And once you grant the pair a self-evident truth, a string of irrefutable derivative extensions follow. And on this platform, all major Religions have erected their models of Divinity and Philosophy and Science, their altars of Truth.

This is the ancient metaphoric twosome of Purusha and Prakriti, loosely translatable as ‘Man and Nature’ or in folk-form, ‘Axle and Wheel’.

Subject and Object, Center and Circumference, True versus False, the Inner-Inviolate versus the Outer-Defiled, the Witness and the Witnessed, the Existent versus the Transient, Real versus Illusion, Achievement versus Shortfall. An immaculate, permanent, pure Heaven in contrast to a violated, transient, impure World.

And the Diva of all Divides: ‘I’ and ‘Not-I’.

The word: ‘Two’ [Dvaitham: ‘Two-ness’] has somehow managed to hold on to its clothes, keep its identity over the many centuries and continents it has crossed. I know of no other word quite like it:

Dvi [Sanskrit]; Duo [Latin]; Dio [Greek]; Do [Persian]; Tvau [Norse]; Tvee [Dutch]; and you can guess ‘Zvei’ and, ‘Deux’. ‘Double’, a word cognate with Doubt, Duplicity and the Devil. The Duo in front of the Deity.

[This notion of conflict inherent in Twoness has a very long history, the chariot metaphor of the Bhagavad Gita, the strikingly similar analogy used by Socrates in Phaedrus, et al.]

The earliest expansion of ‘Not-Two’ in the literature is as: ‘One without a Second’. ‘The One’ [Sanskrit: Ekam Sat] can be found in the history of every literate tradition.

From ‘The One’ of Plotinus that was the mainstay of the hugely influential European Neo-Platonic tradition with roots in the Parmenides to that of that of the Abrahamic Faiths [which gets conceptualized and reified into a later ‘Monotheism’.]

‘Not-Two’ is a more careful construction, an intentional negation. ‘The One’ is an assertion and its selective interpretations can take off on wild spins as evidenced in the literature.

‘Not-Two’: You can carry it around in your shirt-pocket. Bounce it, baby it, bully it. It will spring back to shape.

Importantly, you have not restored a sundered whole to its original glory in an act of ecstatic mystical awakening. There simply was no division all along. Or more precisely, the notion of integration and division itself is recognized for what it is, a very man-made modeled idea.