Nonduality: a show about nothing

I’m reading Dennis Waite’s book, Enlightenment: The Path Through the Jungle, which makes a strong case for traditional advaita studies. Traditional advaita is the long, slow, involved path to enlightenment. It’s one path.

In the world of nonduality, what is there to hang one’s hat on? What path or teacher should one follow?

Consider that you don’t have to do anything other that sit down and do whatever is in front of you waiting to be done. It could be the laundry. That’s a path. The dishes. That’s another path.

An exchange on Seinfeld comes to mind, the episode where Jerry and George are pitching their idea for a TV series to execs at NBC. George states that the shows would be about nothing. The exec at NBC asks George what kinds of stories they’d write for a show that is about “nothing.” George responds by asking the head exec of NBC, “What did you do today?” The exec says, “I got up and came to work.” George says, “That’s a show.” Of course the TV exec comes back with, “Not yet.”

The point is that in your life of nonduality, everything’s a show, everything’s a path. Getting ready to go to work. A conversation. The current book you’re reading. Reading this. That’s your nondual path. There’s absolutely nothing else.

Eventually you will come to see that this intimacy with each event or moment is enriching. It keeps you appreciative, grateful, and focused. But that’s not the goal or the end of it.

At some point you come to sense that there’s an atmosphere in which all this stuff you’re doing plays out. It’s the atmosphere in which laundry is done, in which gratitude happens, in which the moment is experienced, in which you become a more real person, in which you perceive you are awakening, in which your spiritual life plays out.

You suddenly realize that you are that atmosphere. You go back to doing the laundry, the dishes, the nonduality book, but now it’s different. Those events could be said to be happening, but there is no one doing them. Atmosphere is doing them. The sensed atmosphere is awareness.

Back to Seinfeld for a moment. The “nothing” theme in which all of the Seinfeld episodes play out is like the atmosphere I’ve been talking about. It’s the overall awareness of the Seinfeld show. Seinfeld is about nothing, therefore the show can — and did — bring almost anything into play: the placement of a shirt button, the need for a spatula, the crunch of a candy bar. When “nothing” is the backdrop, like a blank movie screen, anything goes.

Understanding the atmosphere of “nothing” or awareness, suddenly everything has great meaning, and not one more than another. It is all awareness, all nothing. So go read a nonduality book. Or do the laundry. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you realize it plays out in an atmosphere. But you have to truly have that realization, otherwise it does matter.

As far as morality, law, ethics, manners, traditions, and customs, it does matter what we do. That’s because while everything is nothing, it still has a reality which must be respected.

Traditional advaita teaches about that reality in the process of leading you gradually toward enlightenment.

If you don’t want the gradual teaching, if you want more immediate knowledge about action and the atmosphere in which it plays out, read the books of neo-advaita.

For a fuller picture of nonduality as presented in books, read both traditional and neo advaita.

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