What is Nonduality?

Nonduality means “not two” or “nonseparation.” It is the sense that all things are interconnected and not separate, while at the same time all things retain their individuality. An awareness of nonduality gives you a bigger perspective on life, a greater sense of freedom, and brings you a more stable happiness.

Why do we need to know about nonduality? How is it helpful?

The word nonduality is commonly seen in the spiritual press and blogs. Nonduality bears on quantum physics, movies, education, psychology, ecology, sexuality, art, music, dance, organizational theory, and many other fields. A knowledge of nonduality can change the way we look at ourselves and the world. That change is in the direction of a unified perspective. This perspective, if pursued, is found to go far and deep.

The Perception of Nonduality

If you have ever had a sense or experience of “something” deeper and more meaningful that lies beyond the everyday you, yet that is you in some way, you have had a taste of nonduality.

The taste of nonduality is the sense or experience of unity, peace, “something” vaster than the everyday you. The taste may be known through an experience in nature, from music or art, from being deeply involved in a hobby or work, from being in the “zone” during an athletic event, from sex, a walk in the park, dance, surfing, having a few beers, or other social interaction.

It may be known in meditation, Yoga, any other spiritual practice, a near death experience, while driving your car, or in the midst of any activity, or for no apparent reason at all.

If you have ever felt deeply dissatisfied, intensely unhappy, psychically imprisoned, it might be said that you can only feel this dissatisfaction because part of you knows there is a place of freedom. That freedom is the experience of nonduality. Your unhappiness may be viewed as the hunger for the taste of nonduality, nonseparateness.

The Pursuit of Nonduality

After experiencing or sensing the taste of nonduality, you may begin to pursue nonduality. Your pursuit may take you to books, teachers, ashrams, India, Internet groups. You may engage spiritual practices, attend meetings with nondual teachers, go on retreats.

Since you are not separate from the “something” that is deeper, vaster, more meaningful than the everyday you, it follows that this pursuit is the discovery of who you really are.

For whatever reason you are here, congratulations on discovering nonduality and looking beyond the everyday you.

Some short descriptions of what nonduality is:

“The concept, often described in English as “nondualism,” is extremely hard for the mind to grasp or visualize, since the mind engages constantly in the making of distinctions and nondualism represents the rejection or transcendence of all distinctions.”
–from The Lotus Sutra translated by Burton Watson

***

What is meant by nonduality, Mahatmi?

It means that light and shade, long and short, black and white, can only be experienced in relation to each other; light is not independent of shade, nor black of white. There are no opposites, only relationships.
–from The Lankavatara Sutra

***

“Advaita (nonduality) does not mean “one” in the sense of eliminating all differences. The differences are present in the one in a mysterious way. They are not separated anymore, and yet they are there.”
–Bede Griffiths (1997)

***

“Advaita” in Sanskrit means “Non-Duality.” This is a difficult concept for most people as we look about us and see multiple objects. But what we see are only transformations not permanent forms, whether we are speaking of a chair, a tree, or a human being. Each exists provisionally, but is certainly not lasting. One day the tree may become the chair and the human body will be eaten by worms. The “I” that observes all this may disappear and become another “I”.
–Justin Stone: T’ai Chi Chih and Non-Duality

***

Lama Yeshe: When you contemplate your own consciousness with intense awareness, leaving aside all thoughts of good and bad, you are automatically led to the experience of non-duality. How is this possible? Think of it like this: the clean clear blue sky is like consciousness, while the smoke and pollution pumped into the sky are like the unnatural, artificial concepts manufactured by ego-grasping ignorance. Now, even though we say the pollutants are contaminating the atmosphere, the sky itself never really becomes contaminated by the pollution. The sky and the pollution each retain their own characteristic nature. In other words, on a fundamental level the sky remains unaffected no matter how much toxic energy enters it. The proof of this is that when conditions change, the sky can become clear once again. In the same way, no matter how many problems maybe created by artificial ego concepts, they never affect the clean clear nature of our consciousness itself. From the relative point of view, our consciousness remains pure because its clear nature never becomes mixed with the nature of confusion.

***

Noted scholar Georg Feuerstein summarizes the advaita realization as follows: “The manifold universe is, in truth, a Single Reality. There is only one Great Being, which the sages call Brahman, in which all the countless forms of existence reside. That Great Being is utter Consciousness, and It is the very Essence, or Self (Atman) of all beings.”
–from http://www.wie.org/j14/advaita.asp:

***

Q: Again, rather technical. Perhaps there’s a more direct way to talk about Nondual mysticism?

KW: Across the board, the sense of being any sort of Seer or Witness or Self vanishes altogether. You don’t look at the sky, you are the sky. You can taste the sky. It’s not out there. As Zen would say, you can drink the Pacific Ocean in a single gulp, you can swallow the Kosmos whole–precisely because awareness is no longer split into a seeing subject in here and a seen object out there. There is just pure seeing. Consciousness and its display are not-two.
–from A Brief History of Everything, by Ken Wilber
Realms of the Superconscious: Part 2

***

Also read the post in this blog, A People’s Nonduality.

And read Definition of Nondualism.

21 thoughts on “What is Nonduality?

  1. Jim Dodds/Arupa

    Nonduality is just what it says. There is one. There is no problem. As awareness, which has been background, comes to the foreground, the dilemma softens and begins to disappear. Whose dilemma? Well, what generated this ego that chases its own tail?

  2. Arek

    If one is angry – anxious – hypnotized by thought no knowledge will help.

    Nonduality is simply always perceiving everything perceivable at the beginning.

    Please, try this.

  3. William Talada

    Nondualism is the end of religious and spiritual searching and all thought systems because you see they don’t lead you into peace. You dis-identify from the childish mind and go into true self which is the silent witness before conceptual thought. Enlightenment is the result of anihilating the ego mind made self and becoming the holy ghost or still small voice. It is a place of complete integrity, peace, and joy. Any act of non-integrity causes mental thought energy which tries to recreate an ego and justify your action but a nondual person will be aware and improve integrity and disregard the mind’s attempt to recreate an ego. Make no mistake; there is no other path to enlightenment.

  4. George Poggemann

    What is nonduality

    The philosophy of Non-Dualism is the point of view that there is one Absolute Reality without a second and that each of us is one with that Reality, just as a wave is one with the ocean. It asserts that experiencing Ultimate Reality is the goal of life. Advaita, another name for Non-Dualism, sees other religions, practices and philosophies as tools that ultimately lead to the direct experience of Absolute Reality.
    To discriminate between what is real and what is not real, it is necessary to define what is meant by real and not real. In this philosophy only that which neither changes nor ceases to exist is real. No object or knowledge can be absolutely real if its existence is only temporary. The unreal includes every “thing,” all names and forms, our minds and thoughts, everything. The universe looks real but is not permanent. It is an illusion. We can’t say it exists nor can we say it doesn’t exist. It is neither real nor non-existent. It is magical. It’s a mystery.
    Reality is not a thing at all. It is no-thing, nothing. An innocent term for it would be pure spirit, or pure consciousness. It has no parts. If we look for it, we are an eye looking for itself. It is experienced but cannot be described. It is ineffable. This Pure Consciousness is permanent existence, knowledge and bliss and is one with man’s inner self.
    When we wake up from a dream the dream world disappears. Non-Dualism teaches that when we wake up to reality this world disappears. The world of thought and matter is a misreading of pure spirit and nothing more. It has a phenomenal or relative existence superimposed upon Absolute Reality by ignorance and remains superimposed until ignorance is destroyed by knowledge of reality, commonly called Spiritual Enlightenment

  5. Felix

    To those reading: be careful of mixing up nondualism with monoism. As the article says, nonduality is the understanding that things are not separate, not that they are the same. Granted, all separation is approximation, but different parts making up everything are just that, different, connected, but not the same. It’s the sense of scope that matters, that causes the separation to appear to manifest, just that at a fundamental level, everything is connected.

  6. masud

    Life is a game of fun
    God is enjoying the fun
    Break up the fun
    And end the game of God with you

    *****masud91626@yahoo.com
    From Bangladesh

  7. Non Discrimination

    Non duality = Non discrimination. Not a thing is better or worse than any other thing. God is no better or worse than Devil. Both unique. No choice, no discrimination, INDIFFERENT.

  8. Diego

    Hi All,

    If samsara is nirvana (ref. Madhyamaka school), then why does it make a difference if one is aware of this fact or not? That is, if we are all enlightened already, then why do we have to dwell in awareness in order to be realized? Isn’t this merely creating another dualistic construct, ie, between awareness (and associated realization) and non-awareness?

    Thanks

  9. Jerry Post author

    Hi, thanks for your comment. It deserves a response that quotes Buddhist passages and perhaps someone will provide that. On the level of “enlightened already” it doesn’t matter whether the difference between samsara and nirvana is known. On the human and worldly level it makes a difference as long as there is the desire to awaken or to understand the nature of things. However, a person with the interest and desire to awaken does not have to focus on topics of samsara and nirvana or the goal of dwelling in awareness. There are other ways to turn attention.

  10. Jim Dodds

    We do not have to dwell in awareness to be realized. We only have to give up the pretense that we aren’t awake — or not. There is no interconnectedness, because to connect one must first be separate. There is no separation, just this. We’re just pretending, dreaming it all up. When you stop describing everything to yourself, that’s all over.

  11. jbeavinsingamiracleJohn Beavin

    Most of what I know of non-duality is what I’ve learned in many years of studying A COURSE IN MIRACLES, and, more specifically, Dr. Ken Wapnick’s writings and workshops on ACIM. For me, the greatest benefit in ACIM is its unrelenting explanation of why we chose, and still choose, the illusion of duality. Is acceptance of nonduality possible without this awareness? Thanks.

  12. Jerry Post author

    Hi John,

    Thanks for commenting. An ongoing look at how mental impressions create and shape the world allow one to accept duality, the arising sense of nonduality, or even the condition of nonduality. There are people with zero spiritual inclinations who get thrown into nondual awareness and they can either accept it or take steps to avoid it. At any step along the way from addictions and cravings to spiritual awareness to realization of the Self, there needs to be mindfulness, as the Buddhists would say. Mindfulness is this “unrelenting explanation” that you speak of. It’s the continual realization that I’m dying, falling apart. It’s the allowing of that so that what I am in truth may be known.

    Best,
    Jerry

  13. nonduality1

    We are each the Dreamer waking from a dream within a dream. As we let go of the attachment, our sense of self as a ‘centre’, we cross the bridge of transcendence that is biologically created in the brain for spiritual awareness (the kingdom of heaven is within). We awaken and see ego is the nature of mind and the illusion of separation.

    Happy happenings,
    Robin Craig Clark

  14. Sam

    I am new to the topic, however since past few months I have read/listened to various gurus of non-duality. These days I feel I am getting closer and closer to understanding of what it (non duality) means and suddenly stop going further, because I get nervous, what if I really understand what it is & if I resign from daily life, who will pay my bills, my child’s school fees etc etc OR lets say if I continue to live a normal life, what if my passion to succeed (get increment, promotion, bigger house, better car etc) ceases, will be not an escape from my duties as seen from family/friends/peoples point of view, will it be not sort of unjust towards my family. Please enlighten.

  15. Jerry Post author

    Hi, thanks for your comment. Yeah, that’s the risk when one’s world perspective radically changes. It’s a gamble because no one knows how your life might change. If there is fear in this pursuit it might help to link up with a stable nondual tradition and teacher. And if you feel you have a choice in this pursuit of nonduality, then it’s not a choiceless pursuit and it really should be.

  16. Bill Talada

    Hi Sam, Your thinking is correct. Non-duality is aperspectival. All previous levels of psychological development come from a perspective which is useful developmentally. No perspective rocks because it is integral. You will need to give up the ideal self image (ego, values, expectations, judgments, roles). Because non-duality operates from a systems level there will be no exploitation. For example, rationalism leads to exploitation of environmental resources and class division due to having exclusive knowledge.

    You are also wrong. Aligning with truth through non-resistance (empiricism) will empower you to do great things. Your passion will come from unconditional love. You may no longer exploit from a view point but you will be in joy and peace. That is the greatest gift you can give to your family.

    I assure you. Going into non-duality is the greatest choice you will ever make.

  17. James Mooney

    webroot is blocking your site and telling me it has malicious content. Either webroot is wrong (and it’s a top program) or your site has been compromised. Howver, only your front page is being blocked. This one isn’t, so it might be code on your front page.

  18. June Bedard

    The first time it happened I was in a pub in Prince George BC in my 30′s. I was watching a couple I knew dancing and feeling jealous. He came my direction seeing my look and our eyes met and when I felt the urge to lower them I didn’t and with locked eyes something dissolved and I went into another space that was unaffected by anything. In about an hour though what was going on made me come out of it in an emotional moment? and I was back. It then happened occassionally again. The other would disappear. Years later as life carried on I finally leaped to a friend within as intention and found myself in this nothingness pure space.
    Just part of my life path. Today I’m frustrated about it all so came on to freshen up.

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