Monism is any philosophical view whichholds that there is unity in agiven field of inquiry,where this is not to be expected. Thus, some philosophers may hold that the universe is really just onething, despite its many appearances and diversities; or theology may supportthe view that there is one God, with many manifestations in different religions.Hinduism is considered tobe primary proponent of Monism. In the Hindu religion, Brahman (Devanāgarī: ब्रह्मन् bráhman) is the eternal, unchanging, infinite, imminent,and transcendent reality which is the Divine Ground of all matter, energy,time, space, being, and everything beyond in this Universe. The nature ofBrahman is described as transpersonal, personal and impersonal by different philosophicalschools and the Brahman religious belief is just seen as different paths to theone god.

Philosophical monism

Monismin philosophy can be defined according to three kinds:

  1. Idealism, phenomenalism, or mentalistic monism which holds that only mind is real.
  2. Neutral monism, which holds that both the mental and the physical can be reduced to some sort of third substance, or energy.
  3. Physicalism or materialism, which holds that only the physical is real, and that the mental or spiritual can be reduced to the physical.

Certain otherpositions are hard to pigeonhole into the above categories, see links below.

AncientWestern philosophers

Thefollowing pre-Socraticphilosophers described reality as being monistic:

  • Thales: Water.
  • Anaximander: Apeiron (meaning 'the undefined infinite'). Reality is some, one thing, but we cannot know what.
  • Anaximenes: Air.
  • Heraclitus: Fire (in that everything is in constant flux).
  • Parmenides: Being. Reality is an unmoving perfect sphere, unchanging, undivided.


  • Neopythagorians such as Apollonius of Tyana centered their cosmologies on the Monad or One.
  • Stoics, like Spinoza later, taught that there is only one substance, identified as God.
  • Middle Platonism under such works as Numenius express the Universe emanating from the Monad or One.
  • Neoplatonism is Monistic. Plotinus taught that there was an ineffable transcendent God, 'The One,' of which subsequent realities were emanations. From The One emanates the Divine Mind (Nous), the Cosmic Soul (Psyche), and the World (Cosmos).

Monism,pantheism, and panentheism

Followinga long and still current tradition H.P. Owen (1971: 65) claimedthat

"Pantheists are‘monists’...they believe that there is only one Being, and that all other formsof reality are either modes (or appearances) of it or identical with it."

Althoughalmost all pantheists are monists, some pantheists may also be not-monists, butundeniably monists were the most famous pantheisms as that of Stoics, Plotinus and Spinoza. ExclusiveMonists believe that the universe, the "God" of naturalisticpantheism, simply does not exist. In addition, monists can be Deists, Pandeists, Theists or Panentheists; believing ina monotheistic God thatis omnipotent and all-pervading, and both transcendent and immanent. There aremonist pantheists and panentheists in Zoroastrianism, Hinduism (particularly in Advaita and Vishistadvaitarespectively), Judaism(monistic panentheism is especially found in Kabbalah and Hasidic philosophy),in Christianity(especially among OrientalOrthodox, EasternOrthodox, and Anglicans)and in Islam (among the Sufis, especially the Bektashi).

Whilepantheism means all things are identical to God, panentheism means Godis in all things, neither identical to, nor totally separate from allthings. Such a concept, some may argue, is more compatible with God as personalwhile not barring a bridge between God and creation. Historical figures such asPaul Tillich have argued for such a concept within Christian theology, as hascontemporary biblical scholar Marcus Borg.

Monismin religious and spiritual systems


Monismis found in the NasadiyaSukta of the Rigveda,which speaks of the Onebeing-non-being that 'breathed without breath'. The first system in Hinduismthat unequivocally explicated absolutemonism was the non-dualist philosophy of Advaita Vedanta as expounded by Shankara. In short, Advaitadeclares - All is Brahman.It is part of the six Hindusystems of philosophy,based on the Upanishads,and posits that the ultimate monad is a formless, ineffable divine ground ofall being.

Vishishtadvaita,qualified monism, is from the school of Ramanuja. Shuddhadvaita, in-essencemonism, is the school of Vallabha.Dvaitadvaita,differential monism, is a school founded by Nimbarka. Dvaita, dualism, is a schoolfounded by Madhvacharyais probably the only Vedantic System which is opposed to all types of monism.It believes that God is eternally different from souls and matter in both formand essence. All Vaishnavaschools are panentheisticand view the universe as part of Krishnaor Narayana, but see aplurality of souls and substances within Brahman. Monistic theism, whichincludes the concept of a personal God as a universal,omnipotent Supreme Being who is bothimmanent and transcendent,is prevalent within many other schools of Hinduism as well.

Theconcept of Brahman explainsthe prevalence of Monism in Hinduism. According to Hinduism, Brahman is theeternal, unchanging, infinite, immanent, and transcendent reality which is theDivine Ground of all matter, energy, time, space, being, and everything beyondin this Universe.[1] The nature of Brahman is described as transpersonal,personal and impersonal by different philosophical schools.[2] And sincea Brahman is considered to be anyone irrespective of religious belief, Hinduismis monistic.


Buddhist philosophy isgenerally suspicious of ontology.The Buddha himself, andsome of his prominent disciples such as Nagarjuna, discouragedontological theorizing for its own sake.

Accordingto the Pali Canon, bothpluralism (naanatta) and monism (ekatta) are speculative views. A Theravada commentary notesthat the former is similar to or associated with nihilism (ucchedavada), andthe latter is similar to or associated with eternalism (sassatavada).[3] See middle way.

Amongthe Madhyamaka school ofMahayana Buddhist philosophy, the ultimate nature of the world is described as emptiness, whichis indistinguishable from material form. That appears to be a monist position,but the Madhyamaka views - including variations like Prasangika and Yogacara and the more modern shentong Tibetan position -will fail to assert in the ultimate nature any particular point of view. Theyinstead deconstruct any assertions about ultimate existence as resulting inabsurd consequences. The doctrine of emptiness is also found in earlierTheravada Buddhist literature.[citation needed]

InSoto Zen teaching, it issaid that "All is One and All is Different." Since non-dualism doesnot recognize a dualism between Oneness and Difference, or even between dualismand non-dualism, it is difficult to state the meaning of this doctrine. Alldiscussion of this teaching by Soto Zen masters falls under the Buddhistconcept of skill in means,which is to say, not literally correct, but suitable for leading others to theTruth. Chinese Soto (Cao-Dong) master Tozan (Tung Shan, Dongshan) wrotethe Verses of theFive Ranks (of the Ideal and the Actual), which is also important as a setof koans in the Rinzai school. Dongshan describes the Fifth Rank in part thus:

Who dares to equal him
Who falls into neither being nor non-being!

Shih-t'ouHsi-ch'ien's poem "The Harmony of Difference and Sameness" Sandokai is an important earlyexpression of Zen Buddhism and is chanted in Sōtō temples to this day. Anotherpoem of Tung-shan Liang-chieh on these and related themes, "The Song ofthe Jewel Mirror Awareness", is also chanted in Sōtō temples daily.

Otherexpressions of this teaching include the koan:

Adisciple asked, "What is the difference between the enlightened and theunenlightened man?"

TheMaster replied, "The unenlightened man sees a difference, but the enlightenedman does not."

andDogen Zenji's personal koan,"Why are training and enlightenment differentiated, since the Truth isuniversal?" (Fukanzazengi, Instructions for Meditation)


English: "Youhave thousands of Lotus Feet, and yet You do not have even one foot. You haveno nose, but you have thousands of noses. This Play of Yours entrances me. 2"

English: "Noone merges with Him through the love of duality; over and over again, they comeand go in reincarnation."