Nonduality for the people

Since 1997, starting with the website, I’ve been bringing forth a certain brand of nonduality or nondualism. It’s a people’s nonduality because no one is excluded and it doesn’t require academic, religious, guruic, ashramic, or even broad spiritual association.

Four elements describe this nonduality or nondualism, though some will have experienced one, two, or none of the first three.

1. A person experiences a sense, or an intuition, of existence (or God, Truth, reality, etc.). The sense may arise spontaneously, or out of suffering, or out of joy, out of immersion in a spiritual tradition, or out of any number of experiences whether combined or isolated. More mundanely, a person is curious about life and senses there are significant things to be learned.

2. Energized by a deep and persistent valuing of their sense or intuition or inner knowing of existence (or God, Truth, reality, etc.), the person is driven and drawn toward the pursuit of a full understanding or realization of their sense or intuition or inner knowing. More mundanely, a person hungers for all kinds of knowledge, goes to school, studies, reads, observes, develops intellectually and otherwise.

3. The person reaches the end of their journey or pursuit, although they do whatever, for them, is right, and which may include practice and study.

4. The various creative expressions emerging from the life lived within any of the above three phases, or beyond all of them, bear the hallmark of non-separation (sometimes accompanied by the more mystical hallmark of oneness experience). Regardless of whether or not I can associate the creative expression with any of the first three phases, I consider that form of expression one of nonduality. I am likely to bring it to the attention of people. As noted, the hallmark of non-separation is evident in utterances from people who simply recognize reality as nondual, without having gone through any of the first three phases.

No doubt I will be updating this description of a people’s nonduality. Your comments are welcome.

9 thoughts on “Nonduality for the people

  1. louiewing

    The Four elements you describe here are reminiscent of Buddhism’s Four Prajnas of Buddhahood. While there are a number of significant differences, it is interesting to compare them. I know that you are familiar with that Buddhist doctrine, but I thought some of your readers might find some interest in it, so I will post a short summary here.

    In English translations, Prajna (Sanskrit) is usually translated as “wisdom” or “knowledge,” however, the term connotes much more than the English terms. In his more recent translations, the remarkably brilliant, and prolific translator, Thomas Cleary has been translating “prajna” with the term “cognition” when it is used in the context of the “Four Prajnas.” This, I think, is an excellent choice, and I will use it in place of “prajna” for the rest of this comment.

    The Four Cognitions of Buddhahood is a classic doctrine of Mahayana Buddhism devised to describe the four major characteristics of the awakened mind, or Buddhahood, as it is referred to in Buddhism.

    The first cognition is the Universal Mirror Cognition. This is the aspect of mind that, like a mirror, perfectly reflects (or cognizes) the world as it is. Through this cognition, the world is experienced in the immediate reality of ‘thusness’ (or is-ness). Unlike an ordinary mirror however, this cognition is not simply reflective, it is also luminescent, which is to say it has an inherent ability to illumine the myriad things. The initial activation, or realization of this inherent cognition confirms the entrance into awakening.

    The second cognition, the Cognition of Equality, is actualized as the experiential realization of emptiness (sunyata) or the oneness (nonduality) of essential nature. Through this cognition, the teachings and concepts on “emptiness” or “nonduality” shift from abstract theories, vague intuitions, and momentary glimpses to the certainty of lived experience. Experiencing the emptiness, or nonduality of all things, one realizes the equality of all things, that is to say, the oneness of all space and time.

    The third cognition, Observing Cognition, is the actualization, implementation, or the dynamic nature of the awakened mind. By employing this cognition, inherent wisdom is deepened and refined, and the methods and techniques, or what Buddhism calls “skillful means” (to act in the world, and to help others) are cultivated and mastered. The Observing Cognition is the active unfolding, or dynamism of the universe. Realizing the empty, or nondual nature of all things, one does not turn away from the world of differentiation, but instead, applies realization within it.

    The fourth, Practical Cognition, is the perfect actualization of awakening, complete perfect enlightenment. It is the condition where being and doing are in perfect accord; wisdom and action are simultaneous and spontaneous.

    The Four Cognitions, like all doctrines, are of course conceptual constructs, however their reference is to the reality of our true nature; its oneness, or nonduality with all things. As the truth of nonduality imples, each one of these cognitions contains, and is contained by, the other three.

    Thank you.
    Please take good care.
    Ted Biringer


  2. nonduality Post author

    Hi Ted, I took a break from a book I’m very immersed in and saw your comment. Thanks.

    In this book I’m reading gives perspective to teachings. It says that while “You should train your Buddha-Eye on the teachings of the sages and Zen masters, mastering them in practice until their most subtle and profound wisdom has been completely transmitted to you,” … “Only direct personal experience can bring true liberation.”

    This books says to “Avoid becoming attached to verbal or written teachings, (yet) … such teachings are vitally important for the ongoing process of practice and enlightenment. Attachment poses the danger, not the teachings themselves.”

    I’ll have more to say about this new and fresh Zen book in coming days.



  3. John Sobert Sylvest

    This reminded me of some crude notes I’d made, a few years ago, during a Thomas Merton lecture (audiotape). Merton noted that the spiritual path and the path of scientific breakthroughs is analogous. Specifically, the steps are: 1) We find an issue, sort through it and set about to solve it. 2) We grapple and grapple with it until we realize that it is virtually irresolute, unsolvable, beyond us, too difficult. 3) We let go and move on. 4) Sometimes, years later, the solution comes to us in an instant, in a flash.

    Deep peace, all.


  4. Bob Tallon

    We talk about non duality, we dance around building concepts that only entrap us more. This is the way of the mind or ego or personal self . We are much more than we realize and also much less. The ambiguities that seem to result from the above sentence do not exist they are created by our minds as we try to ground being itself into our intellect. Such is being human and no value attached can have any more validity than evacuating ourselves in a porta potty. In fact that may be the most valuable thing we give.


  5. Faithe Arden

    I was introduced to the concept of “nonduality” in 1999. From total naivity I become an expert writer discussing the concepts surrounding nonduality. I could discuss with the best of them. I do believe we had many discussions, Jerry.

    WOW…this was the best thing since sliced bread!

    And now…it took me years to cleanse myself of the sludge suffocating me by buying into just another religion filled with insecure people looking for support from other insecure people limping through life filled with passive aggressiveness and victimization roles. People playing games to be next to the teachers in the hopes that now they will have “made it”…and teachers preening in their light of enlightenment.

    I finally made it though.

    It was after reading “One, Essential Writings on Nonduality” that “nonduality” and all it signified by the “teachers” that I was able to see that the concept “nonduality” was “nonsense” which, in turn, gave me that clarity state held when naive.


  6. Omkaradatta

    Thanks to both Faithe and John Sylvest for interesting comments. My own path followed what you stated pretty closely… was introduced in 1998/99, abandoned spirituality altogether around 2003 (tried every angle and figured if it was to operate in my life it would), and about five years later ‘something happened’, although there was a progressive (and unconscious) path of releasing all seeking in the interim, both worldly and spiritual.


  7. Jim Dodds/Arupa

    Attachment springs from that which can never be attached. There is no one to be attached, so it isn’t a problem. “Our” idea that there is a problem arises spontaneously and departs in its own time as not two becomes more and more obvious and not even the One that invented it can sustain it.


  8. Felix

    I must be a mundane person then. Luckily, I understood what nondualism was prior to actually hearing about the term. Apparently, I like to procrastinate… >.>

    If you’ve heard of the collective unconscious idea from Jung, then perhaps you might understand why I also think that any person will be able to understand nondualism. For others, it is merely a living of nondualism rather than the additional conscious understanding of it.


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