This post is a seed for a future article about “liberating distinctions.”

In certain traditions there is an emphasis on distinctions such as absolute/relative, prakriti/purusha, or yin/yang. Exploring these distinctions leads to useful understandings of phenomena and reality. Used skillfully, these distinctions can be liberating, for instance by helping people to release dysfunctional ideas about how life works.

It occurred to me that certain distinctions are more liberating than others. So I calibrated a number of distinctions to see which ones provide the most support on the journey of awakening. The results are summarized below.

As of now, the only distinction that calibrates as maximally liberating is liberating/limiting. Thus the most fundamental question is the extent to which an approach, practice, or teaching is liberating and/or limiting.

There are two distinctions that are very nearly maximally liberating: loving/limiting and clarifying/limiting. Love and clarity remove limitations. Limitation is fundamentally a lack of clarity about the nature of reality. In total clarity there can be no limitation. Love removes all limitations created by the belief in separation.

The following distinctions are nearly maximally liberating:

  • Clarifying/codifying: As soon as one codifies, one obscures the spontaneous nature of reality.
  • Clear/obscure
  • Experience/gnosis or experience/knowing: It is powerfully liberating to understand that THE SUPREME knows all directly, in immediacy, without the mediation of any kind of experience. Enlightenment transcends all experience, and also includes experience. When one has a mastery of gnosis, or direct knowing, one is able to enjoy experience without becoming lost in the domains of experience.
  • Clear/unclear
  • Clear/confused

The following distinctions are highly liberating, though one or two steps down from the distinctions above:

  • Upstream/downstream: That which is upstream is more realized, more awake to the nature of reality, and that which is downstream is less realized.
  • Clarifying/confusing: Since confusion is fundamentally a type of limitation, specifically limited clarity, clarifying/limiting is more directly liberating than clarifying/confusing.
  • Real/illusory or reality/illusion
  • True/untrue or truth/untruth
  • Clarity/confusion
  • Awakeness/unawakeness
  • Enlightenment/unenlightenment
  • Aware/unaware
  • Conscious/unconscious
  • Finite/infinite
  • Finite/transfinite

The following distinctions are commonly used, though not highly liberating:

  • Perception/reality
  • Self/self (the one Self of all / the small self)
  • Unity/multiplicity
  • Conditioned/unconditioned
  • Appearances/reality
  • Form/formlessness
  • One/many

The following common distinctions are moderately liberating:

  • Being / ground of being
  • Change/changelessness
  • Self/no-self
  • Yin/yang
  • Absolute/relative
  • Prakriti/purusha
  • Manifest/unmanifest

There is one common distinction that in some cases may be somewhat liberating, but in mosts cases is limiting or extremely limiting. The divine/human distinction is the root of all dysfunction. In reality, human is divine. To suppose otherwise reinforces the idea of separation from Divinity, which is the greatest limitation, and leads to all of the suffering in the world. Similarly, the creator/created and creator/creature distinctions reinforce the idea of separation from Divinity. In reality, the One is self-manifesting and cannot be divided into the roles of creator and created. Lastly, higher self / lower self tends to reinforce the notion of a separation from oneself, which is separation from Divinity in another guise.

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