Non-duality AND Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism

An open and inclusive investigation into Buddhism and spiritual cultivation

Re: Non-duality

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Jul 07, 2009 10:59 am

christopher::: wrote:
Masterful merging, tilt..! The two discussions flow together almost seemlessly...

:bow:


Yes. It took a whole 30 seconds or less of clicking on a couple of buttons. Glad it worked out.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
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People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: Non-duality AND Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism

Postby imagemarie » Tue Jul 07, 2009 2:30 pm

:anjali:
Wonderful posts here nathan. Thank-you. :bow:
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Re: Non-duality AND Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism

Postby clw_uk » Wed Jul 08, 2009 5:46 pm

I dont know if this has already been covered here but how is emptiness in Theravada teachings different from non-duality?
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Re: Non-duality AND Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism

Postby cooran » Wed Jul 08, 2009 8:05 pm

Hello clw-uk, all,

This may be of assistance:

Dhamma and Non-duality ~ Bhikkhu Bodhi
http://www.vipassana.com/resources/bodh ... uality.php

Theravada perspective on Emptiness by Ayu Kusalanda Thera
http://milindasquestions.com/2006/09/03 ... emptiness/

metta
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Re: Non-duality AND Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism

Postby christopher::: » Thu Jul 09, 2009 1:03 am

Good question, clw-uk.

Chris wrote:
Dhamma and Non-duality ~ Bhikkhu Bodhi
http://www.vipassana.com/resources/bodh ... uality.php



Thanks for that, Chris!

For the Vedanta, non-duality (advaita) means the absence of an ultimate distinction between the Atman, the innermost self, and Brahman, the divine reality, the underlying ground of the world. From the standpoint of the highest realization, only one ultimate reality exists -- which is simultaneously Atman and Brahman -- and the aim of the spiritual quest is to know that one's own true self, the Atman, is the timeless reality which is Being, Awareness, Bliss. Since all schools of Buddhism reject the idea of the Atman, none can accept the non-dualism of Vedanta. From the perspective of the Theravada tradition, any quest for the discovery of selfhood, whether as a permanent individual self or as an absolute universal self, would have to be dismissed as a delusion, a metaphysical blunder born from a failure to properly comprehend the nature of concrete experience. According to the Pali Suttas, the individual being is merely a complex unity of the five aggregates, which are all stamped with the three marks of impermanence, suffering, and selflessness. Any postulation of selfhood in regard to this compound of transient, conditioned phenomena is an instance of "personality view" (sakkayaditthi), the most basic fetter that binds beings to the round of rebirths. The attainment of liberation, for Buddhism, does not come to pass by the realization of a true self or absolute "I," but through the dissolution of even the subtlest sense of selfhood in relation to the five aggregates, "the abolition of all I-making, mine-making, and underlying tendencies to conceit."


I think many Advaita masters look upon the section in italics as a conceptual representation of reality, not a fixed truth, and would agree with the section in bold. The path is about realization and complete unbinding of self-identity, not ideas of "truth." There may indeed be cognitive dissonance for some Theravadin practitioners, but for those at deeper levels of realization my sense (and others may disagree) is that once this step is taken a practitioner no longer struggles with religious belief systems and conceptions the way most of us mere mortals do. Ideas are tools, for awakening, rafts for crossing great distances.

In regard to virtue the distinction between the two teachings is not immediately evident, as both generally affirm the importance of virtuous conduct at the start of training. The essential difference between them emerges, not at the outset, but only later, in the way they evaluate the role of morality in the advanced stages of the path. For the non-dual systems, all dualities are finally transcended in the realization of the non-dual reality, the Absolute or fundamental ground. As the Absolute encompasses and transcends all diversity, for one who has realized it the distinctions between good and evil, virtue and non-virtue, lose their ultimate validity. Such distinctions, it is said, are valid only at the conventional level, not at the level of final realization; they are binding on the trainee, not on the adept. Thus we find that in their historical forms (particularly in Hindu and Buddhist Tantra), philosophies of non-duality hold that the conduct of the enlightened sage cannot be circumscribed by moral rules. The sage has transcended all conventional distinctions of good and evil. He acts spontaneously from his intuition of the Ultimate and therefore is no longer bound by the rules of morality valid for those still struggling towards the light. His behavior is an elusive, incomprehensible outflow of what has been called "crazy wisdom."


I agree with Bikkhu Bodhi here. Again, just my opinion, but any master or practitioner that starts to deviate with their behaviors is not enlightened. That's why its called crazy wisdom. Elements of wisdom perhaps but the practitioners have missed the mark and crashed into a ditch.

In terms of "enlightened" human behavior, great masters from Jesus to Buddha have been clear about that. Dualistic distinctions do apply. Killing is wrong, kindness is right. Hate creates suffering, Love heals. A nondual view of the world doesn't mean you suddenly give up your moral frameworks, which are dualistic by nature. Clear evidence for this can be found in the fate of crazy wisdom teachers, they usually end up quite miserable.

Just my 2 cents. Great essay. Have not read the second yet.

:namaste:
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009
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Re: Non-duality AND Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism

Postby clw_uk » Thu Jul 09, 2009 3:30 pm

One thing i have wondered, Advaita Vedanta claims the world is and illusion yet Brahman is everything, so is Brahman illusion?



Also in Buddhadhamma, did the Buddha ever take the stance that the physical world wasnt real in some way?


metta
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Re: Non-duality AND Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism

Postby kc2dpt » Thu Jul 09, 2009 8:22 pm

christopher::: wrote:Clear evidence for this can be found in the fate of crazy wisdom teachers, they usually end up quite miserable.

Could you kindly provide this clear evidence? Please show us how crazy wisdom teachers usually end up quite miserable. Thanks.
- Peter

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Re: Non-duality AND Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism

Postby christopher::: » Thu Jul 09, 2009 9:59 pm

Peter wrote:
christopher::: wrote:Clear evidence for this can be found in the fate of crazy wisdom teachers, they usually end up quite miserable.

Could you kindly provide this clear evidence? Please show us how crazy wisdom teachers usually end up quite miserable. Thanks.


Hmmm. Nah, Peter, i don't know enough to back that up. I had a couple of teachers in mind, but i'd rather just retract the statement then mention them and try to defend it.

If i could post again i'd phrase that differently. So much for the ignornance (on my part) of quick posting without deep thought.

:toilet:
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009
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Re: Non-duality AND Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism

Postby jcsuperstar » Fri Jul 10, 2009 9:21 am

clw_uk wrote:One thing i have wondered, Advaita Vedanta claims the world is and illusion yet Brahman is everything, so is Brahman illusion?



Also in Buddhadhamma, did the Buddha ever take the stance that the physical world wasnt real in some way?


metta

i think in some mahayana sutra he does, maybe the diamond sutra? but in the suttas i think he says it is like a bubble or foam or something so not that it is an illusion but it was like one, which i think is quite different
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Re: Non-duality AND Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Jul 10, 2009 9:35 am

Greetings Craig,

clw_uk wrote:Also in Buddhadhamma, did the Buddha ever take the stance that the physical world wasnt real in some way?


Only to the extent detailed in the...

SN 22.95: Phena Sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

However I have read some comments from experienced Vajrayana Buddhists at E-Sangha that indicate that they perceive otherwise.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Non-duality AND Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism

Postby christopher::: » Wed Jul 15, 2009 11:17 pm

Nice link, Retro.

The Diamond Sutra may have its origins there. I'm not a scholar though, so, i'm just guessing...

As jcsuperstar mentioned, the view given there is that from the perspective of enlightenment all this world is like a dream. Even our impressions of individuality, of sentient beings, are an illusion of sorts. This is one way of viewing the Buddha's teachings of impermanence and anatta...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diamond_Sutra

Thus shall you think of this fleeting world:
A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream,
A flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream.


:heart:
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009
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Re: Non-duality AND Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism

Postby .e. » Thu Jul 23, 2009 8:53 pm

clw_uk wrote:One thing i have wondered, Advaita Vedanta claims the world is and illusion yet Brahman is everything, so is Brahman illusion?




Here is Sankara’s refrain.

The world is illusion
Brahma alone is real
Brahma is the world

Some see this as 3 realizations, the last being non-dual.

It is similar to the Zen refrain.

Mountains were mountains
Mountains were no longer mountains
Mountains are again mountains

In terms of BuddhaDhamma, I have found a few places where non-duality can be intuited in the way we talk about non-duality as non-separation between the subject/object conceptual dualities.

One experiential place is phassa. At the moment of contact, how can you separate out consciousness/organ/form. Look for yourself…touch a hard surface like a desk and at the precise moment of contact before vedena arises, it is impossible to separate out any of the 3. They simultaneously arise and are only dualistically separated later as a subject (me within consciousness) experiencing an object out there (a desk).

Here is another place in which the middle way is between duality. Ven. Thinisaro uses polarity. I believe Ven. Bodhi uses duality.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

So where does the middle way lead? To Nirvana of course. A teacher (student of Buddhadasa) explained Nirvana this way. As Nir (not) and vana (emotion). He said we only know 2 states of mind, positive and negative, and that nirvana was recognized between these two states. He used emotions to show this.

lust (nirvana) hate
happiness (nirvana) sadness

He said, Buddha meditated to produce the highest happiness attainable via jhana. He then meditated on this happiness and saw that it too was suffering, impermanent and non-self. So the cooling (nirvana) or blowing out of positive/negative obscuring emotions can be understood as non-duality because the duality of this/that conditionality comes to cessation without remainder. So Buddhist non-duality can be described as not-two and not-one.

Regarding Samsara being Nirvana, we can use the 3 realization refrain as:

Samsara
Nirvana
Nirvana is Samsara (correctly perceived i.e. non-dualistically)

It makes sense doesn’t it? Buddha realized Nirvana in the midst of Samsara, he did not go off to heaven or disappear, etc. He re-cognized Nirvana by not-dualistically conceiving and/or by not emoting Samsara as positive or negative. The difficulty lies in showing this to deluded human beings who believe in a subject object split and who only know two states of mind. This is why he did not initially want to teach. He thought that no one would understand.
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Re: Non-duality AND Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Jul 24, 2009 1:18 am

Here is Sankara’s refrain.

The world is illusion
Brahma alone is real
Brahma is the world

Some see this as 3 realizations, the last being non-dual.

It is similar to the Zen refrain.

Mountains were mountains
Mountains were no longer mountains
Mountains are again mountains


These do not correspond with each other.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Non-duality AND Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism

Postby piotr » Fri Jul 24, 2009 6:04 am

Hi, :)

jcsuperstar wrote:
clw_uk wrote:One thing i have wondered, Advaita Vedanta claims the world is and illusion yet Brahman is everything, so is Brahman illusion?

Also in Buddhadhamma, did the Buddha ever take the stance that the physical world wasnt real in some way?

i think in some mahayana sutra he does, maybe the diamond sutra? but in the suttas i think he says it is like a bubble or foam or something so not that it is an illusion but it was like one, which i think is quite different


I think that this is important distinction to keep. Nanavira-thera wrote in one of his letters:

      'Thought and lust are a man's sensuality,
      Not the various things in the world;
      Thought and lust are a man's sensuality,
      The various things just stand there in the world;
      But the wise get rid of desire therein'. (A. VI,63: iii,411)

    For the Hindu, then, the variety of the world is illusion, and for the Maháyánist it is ignorance; and in both cases the aim is to overcome the world, either by union with Brahma or by attainment of knowledge. Unlike the Hindus and the Maháyánists, the Pali Suttas teach that the variety of the world is neither illusion (máyá) nor delusion (avidyá) but perfectly real. The attainment of nibbána is certainly cessation of avijjá, but this leaves the variety of the world intact, except that affectively the variety is now uniformly indifferent. Avidyá, clearly enough, does not mean to the Maháyánist what avijjá does in the Pali Suttas. – http://nanavira.110mb.com/lett8b.htm
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Re: Non-duality AND Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism

Postby .e. » Fri Jul 24, 2009 7:19 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
Here is Sankara’s refrain.

The world is illusion
Brahma alone is real
Brahma is the world

It is similar to the Zen refrain.

Mountains were mountains
Mountains were no longer mountains
Mountains are again mountains


These do not correspond with each other.


Right, I said they are similar. If you remove the ontology and see Brahma as the only real unconditioned “thing” aka Nibbana, then there really is no difference if the self sense is dissolved in moksha. The difference is merely semantics. Both Ramana and Nisargadatta recommended holding to the “I am” thought. (This was a pracitce of A. Sumedho when he met A. Chah btw). It begins to dawn on one that it is not possible and “I am” vanishes. This seems awfully similar to the last thing to go before arahantship albeit in a different vernacular.
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Re: Non-duality AND Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism

Postby .e. » Fri Jul 24, 2009 7:27 pm

piotr wrote:

'Thought and lust are a man's sensuality,
Not the various things in the world;
Thought and lust are a man's sensuality,
The various things just stand there in the world;
But the wise get rid of desire therein'. (A. VI,63: iii,411)[/list]

...Unlike the Hindus and the Maháyánists, the Pali Suttas teach that the variety of the world is neither illusion (máyá) nor delusion (avidyá) but perfectly real.


In philosophy this is called Naïve Realism http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naive_realism. If you look at the phena sutta that retro posted, it is hard to maintain that Buddha felt the objects of awareness were real. In other words if everything but nibbana is impermanent, how can anything else be real i.e. unchanging? ALL is conditionally arisen and so “not real” or we could say the all is only conventionally real.

This was Nagarjuna’s critique of seeing the “things” that Buddha used to convey his teaching as atomistic and ultimately real. Nagarjuna showed how this view is untenable and so recentered the dhamma at Nalanda. Surely Buddha would have smiled in silent consent. Hasn’t modern physics shown the same thing? The atom does not exist the way the ancient Greeks fathomed i.e. it also is composed of parts that dissolve into energy and so is seen to be conditionally arisen. What in your experience isn’t?
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Re: Non-duality AND Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Jul 24, 2009 8:23 pm

.e. wrote:Right, I said they are similar. If you remove the ontology and see Brahma as the only real unconditioned “thing” aka Nibbana, then there really is no difference if the self sense is dissolved in moksha.


The ontology of Shankara’s verse is the point of it, and no such ontology exists in the Zen verse. Nibbana is clearly defined in the suttas as: That which is the destruction of greed, hatred and delusion is nibbana. -- S.N. IV 251 and IV 321

And we see:

That which is the destruction of greed, hatred and delusion is asankhata [“unconditioned”]. -- S.N. IV 359 and S.N. 362

Nibbana is the freedom from the conditioning influences of greed, hatred, and delusion, which is vastly different from the “self being dissolved in moksha,” into some sort of ultimate thingness that we really supposedly are.

The difference is merely semantics.


It is much more than that.

Both Ramana and Nisargadatta recommended holding to the “I am” thought. (This was a pracitce of A. Sumedho when he met A. Chah btw). It begins to dawn on one that it is not possible and “I am” vanishes. This seems awfully similar to the last thing to go before arahantship albeit in a different vernacular.


Yeah, yeah, yeah, but do not pay any attention to the fact that the underlying assumptions are vastly different and that with the Advaita that there is an assumption of an ultimate self-ness, which means it is still stuck in the khandhas.

Tell us what the “all” is in Advaita and what the "all" is in the Buddha’s teachings. Also, I’d recommend rereading the very first msg in this thread.

Also, samsara is defined as an illusion by the Advaita. In the Buddha’s teaching it is like an illusion, but it certainly not the maya of the Advaita and nowhere do we get the horrific corollary lila concept in the Buddha’s teachings.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Non-duality AND Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism

Postby .e. » Sat Jul 25, 2009 3:28 pm

Dear tilt,

The khandhas were a teaching to deconstruct personality view. The Self or Awareness of Advaita is not the consciousness aggregate of Buddhist personhood. We can grind away at the scriptures and look for differences and/or or we can attempt to see what they are talking about from within their own context. Ramana and Nis did not think of Self in the way Brahma was thought to exist in the Pali scriptures i.e. as a real nice benevolent god in the highest heaven you can relate too and have tea with. They thought of Brahma in the same way “I am” is cast off like that of the arahant. Now Buddha did not describe what that was like in a positivistic way…which is great…that resonates with my deepest understanding and is philosophically more elegant to my taste. But that does not make Ramana or Nis “wrong” in their understanding. A friend felt that Advaita and Buddhism are like 2 different languages more than ways to posit truth. So in the first sentence of the Zen verse there is ontology i.e. the mountain. It is only in the 2nd that it is gone and in the 3rd rendered transparent. It is similar in Sankara’s refrain. The personal ontology disappears. I would say it is the reader that reifies the ontology of Brahma more than the writer. If the world is illusory and Brahma is the world, what then of the ontology of Brahma? That is, Real/Illusion loose their dualistic meaning and without that what then of ontology? Do you see?
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Re: Non-duality AND Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Jul 25, 2009 7:40 pm

.e. wrote:Dear tilt,

The khandhas were a teaching to deconstruct personality view.


The reach of the khandhas is much further than that.

The Self or Awareness of Advaita is not the consciousness aggregate of Buddhist personhood.


To try to limit what the Buddha taught is nothing more than an attempt at trying to side step the issue.

Monks, whatever contemplatives or priests who assume in various ways when assuming a self, all assume the five clinging-aggregates, or a certain one of them. SN III 46

So, is the Advaita atman aware? Does it act? Does it change? Does it feel?

We can grind away at the scriptures and look for differences and/or or we can attempt to see what they are talking about from within their own context.


The Buddha’s context is broad enough. As refined and as subtle as it is, as it may be, the Advaita self is still nothing more than an assumption of a self. Does the Advaita atman act, does it feel?

Again, the question you ignored. What is the “all” for Advaita and what is the “all” for the Buddha?

Ramana and Nis did not think of Self in the way Brahma was thought to exist in the Pali scriptures i.e. as a real nice benevolent god in the highest heaven you can relate too and have tea with.


Brahma is nothing more, as is obvious from the Brhadaranyaka Upanisad, than a personification of the monistic notion of Brahman.

They thought of Brahma in the same way “I am” is cast off like that of the arahant. Now Buddha did not describe what that was like in a positivistic way…which is great…that resonates with my deepest understanding and is philosophically more elegant to my taste.


The Buddha went far further than your Advaitans, seeing that any self thingie is a problem. And let us not forget your statement: ”If you remove the ontology and see Brahma as the only real unconditioned “thing” aka Nibbana, then there really is no difference if the self sense is dissolved in moksha.” It is not Brahma; it is Brahman, and the ontology of being of Brahman is the point of Shankara’s statement. Nibbana is not an ontology of being. Basically, your approach is trying to turn the Buddha into an Advaitan by missing what it is that the Buddha actually taught.

But that does not make Ramana or Nis “wrong” in their understanding.


Wrong? They were fine teachers of Advaita, showing the limits of how far the self notion can be refined and pushed, but they were not near the level of the Buddha.

A friend felt that Advaita and Buddhism are like 2 different languages more than ways to posit truth.


That is nice, but carries no weight.

So in the first sentence of the Zen verse there is ontology i.e. the mountain. It is only in the 2nd that it is gone and in the 3rd rendered transparent.


The teaching of the Zen verse is grounded on emptiness, which admits no self ontology, however refined and subtle. It is grounded in the very khandhas themselves, in paticcasamuppada. It is a radical insight that does not need to preserve a self by making it more than it really is.

It is similar in Sankara’s refrain. The personal ontology disappears.


The lower levels of self are suppressed, as happens with highly refined jhana/samadhi, even without insight (vipassana), giving one a sense of oneness and which can be colored by one’s beliefs.

I would say it is the reader that reifies the ontology of Brahma more than the writer. If the world is illusory and Brahma is the world, what then of the ontology of Brahma? That is, Real/Illusion loose their dualistic meaning and without that what then of ontology? Do you see?


Basically, you are positing an ontology of a monistic being. Tat tvam asi and Om tat sat and Sat chit ananda. Not the teachings of the Buddha or the likes of Nagarjuna. Again, I refer you to the first msg (and the second msg) that open this thread.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Non-duality AND Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism

Postby cooran » Sat Jul 25, 2009 8:30 pm

You know, Tilt, ~ sometimes I'm really glad you're around.

metta
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