Monthly Archives: July 2008

Swimming Parallel

I was a skinny kid, lacking the strength and stamina to play sports, and a sufferer of migraine headaches. I had few friends and no girlfriends.

It didn’t take much strength or talent to body surf, so that was my sport in the 60s on Santa Monica beach.

I enjoyed going into the ocean when the lifeguard station flew a solid red flag signaling the riptide. A riptide is a strong flow of water from near the shore out into the ocean. You are swiftly carried into deep water. The natural tendency is to fight the pull and swim towards the shore. The strongest swimmer either drowns or is saved.

Swimming parallel to and edging toward the shore, I would catch waves and ride them further inland until the water was shallow enough that I could walk from sea to shore. It didn’t take strength to be free of a riptide. You had to swim and stay calm.

After high school and on weekends I worked part-time at Henshey’s department store. One day several co-workers around high school age met at the beach.

The solid red flag was waving. It was understood that no one would be swimming today. Bridget Beaulaire, tall and lean with long flowing reddish bronze hair, urged the other girls to feel Len Harding’s biceps and abdominals. “Feel them!” she delighted. He wore the attention of women as comfortably as the sand between his toes. “Lenny, show your Mr. Universe pose.”

I said, “I’m going in.”

“Len, you should go too.” He didn’t want to. “You’ll be okay,” Bridget commanded.

The two of us walked to the water silently. Len looked back at least twice. We dove in and were carried swiftly into deep water. I started to swim north, parallel to the beach, riding waves at my leisure, enjoying the ocean. Len swam directly for shore. Waving his arms, he went under a couple times. I was too far from him. The richly tanned lifeguard in flag-matching bathing trunks dashed down the ramp of his tower.

A couple hundred yards away my co-workers gathered near the water. I jogged. Len lay on his back not far from where the water’s final foam reached. Bridget was kneeling at his side while the lifeguard and the others from work stood over him.

I watched him for awhile until there was no point any longer and headed into the water. Floating on my back, my co-workers quickly became small human figures on the sand. A wave came and I caught it. I came out of the wave and tried to swim straight for the shore. Exhaustion threatened to extinguish me. I cut to the left, north, and began to swim parallel. Waves guided me in. Shore to sea. Sea to shore.

I started a slow walk parallel to back home.

Advaita by Webster

It’s so rare to find definitions of nonduality in regular dictionaries. To find a definition of advaita, which is Sanskrit for nonduality, in Webster’s dictionary seems even more uncommon. But here it is. There must be a lexicographer who is into nonduality. I’m glad we got people in the dictionary biz. And believe me, we do have people.

Main Entry: advai•ta

Function: noun
Usage: usually capitalized
Etymology: Sanskrit, from a- + dvaita duality, from dvi two — more at TWO
: Vedantic nondualism that denies the separateness of any aspect of reality from the impersonal oneness of Brahma

Citation format for this entry:

“advaita.” Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. Merriam-Webster, 2002. (10 Jul. 2008).

The less spirituality offers, the better

Spirituality offers much: rituals, activism, personality worship, psychic fireworks, social pleasure, defined levels of attainment.

When spirituality offers much, it is like a stamp album. The shape and size of each stamp is outlined. Into each outline you stick the appropriate stamp that you go out and find.

The best of spirituality doesn’t offer a blank sheet of paper, let alone the possibility of finding stamps.

The burden is then placed on you to make offers to spirituality. You offer all your integrity and all your crap. You offer all your own stamps, not ones outlined for you to match up. But there is no album to paste them into.

By offering you nothing at all, spirituality allows you to give up everything. What is left can’t be outlined as a shape or depicted on a stamp.

There are many ways of accessing a spirituality that offers you nothing. However, you must stumble into the realization that it is the next step.

~ ~ ~

Also, read Where You Stumble.

Awake In the Infinite Cold


My mother went shopping one afternoon in 1958. As a treat she bought me an album of popular rock and roll songs by Elvis, Dion and the Belmonts, Buddy Holly, and others. Resting the needle on the record I realized at once they weren’t the real songs, but covers. Unknown singers sang songs originally sung by Elvis, Dion, Buddy Holly, Perry Como.

At least once a year my mother would buy me a budget cover album. Here’s a cover of a Beatles song: pleasepleaseme.mp3.

Today it’s funny to listen to, but in 1963 when you were 14 years old, you wanted to hear the Beatles. It was as depressing as life got. Not that the version of Please Please Me is bad. The singers of these cover songs were often better than the original singers.


When we were kids we hated cover songs. Nowadays cover songs are much loved, widely accepted and very popular. YouTube is full of cover versions of popular and even little known songs. The song Only Hope, by Christian-inspired group Switchfoot, must have been covered a hundred times on YouTube. Here’s the lyric:

“Only Hope”

There’s a song that’s inside of my soul
It’s the one that I’ve tried to write over and over again
I’m awake in the infinite cold
But You sing to me over and over again

So I lay my head back down
And I lift my hands and pray
To be only Yours
I pray to be only Yours
I know now You’re my only hope

Sing to me the song of the stars
Of Your galaxy dancing and laughing
and laughing again
When it feels like my dreams are so far
Sing to me of the plans that You have for me over again

So I lay my head back down
And I lift my hands and pray
To be only Yours
I pray to be only Yours
I know now You’re my only hope

I give You my destiny
I’m giving You all of me
I want Your symphony
Singing in all that I am
At the top of my lungs I’m giving it back

So I lay my head back down
And I lift my hands and pray
To be only Yours
I pray to be only Yours
I know now You’re my only hope

Here’s a typical YouTube singer, Joyride13, covering Only Hope. Note that she reveals she is doing a cover of Mandy Moore’s cover of Switchfoot’s Only Hope. (You can easily imagine that there’s a cover of this girl’s cover of Mandy Moore’s cover.)


In the world of nonduality, we could ask, “Are some teachers imitative of famous gurus or scriptures? That is, are they doing ‘cover songs’? Could the ‘cover songs’ be better than the originals? Are teachers doing ‘cover songs’ of ‘cover songs’?”

It’s up to the consumer of nondualia to be aware of those questions and to decide how to value what they read. This portion of Only Hope points to what the only authentic voice might be:

I’m awake in the infinite cold
But You sing to me over and over again

Definition of Nondualism

Dictionary definitions of nondualism, or any form of the word, are practically non-existent. You can find definitions of nondualism in encyclopedias, but not standard dictionaries.

Today I checked the Oxford English Dictionary Online, which includes quarterly updates, and there is no definition for nondual, nondualism, or nonduality.

Here is a definition I found today from
Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. Merriam-Webster, 2002.

Nondualism Defined:

Main Entry: non•dualism
Function: noun
Etymology: 1non- + dualism
1 : a doctrine of classic Brahmanism holding that the essential unity of all is real whereas duality and plurality are phenomenal illusion and that matter is materialized energy which in turn is the temporal manifestation of an incorporeal spiritual eternal essence constituting the innermost self of all things
2 : any of various monistic or pluralistic theories of the universe

Citation format for this entry:

“nondualism.” Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. Merriam-Webster, 2002. (5 Jul. 2008).

I find the above to be a very limited definition of nondualism, although I like the metaphysical, almost poetic feel to it. I don’t know how useful the definition is.

Dualism Defined:

Now here’s the definition of dualism from the Oxford English Dictionary Online. I’m showing it because it could serve as model for defining nondualism, except it would include quotations from different cultures and nondual perspectives.

Entry printed from Oxford English Dictionary Online
Copyright © Oxford University Press 2008

dualism SECOND EDITION 1989
( dju l z( )m) [f. DUAL + -ISM: cf. F. dualisme (1755 in Hatz.-Darm.).]
1. The condition or state of being dual or consisting of two parts; twofold division; duality.
1831 CARLYLE Sart. Res. II. ix, In Teufelsdröckh there is always the strangest Dualism. 1833 Diderot Misc. Ess. 1872 V. 53 Among the dualisms of man’s wholly dualistic nature, this we might fancy was an observable one. 1841-4 EMERSON Ess., Compensation Wks. (Bohn) I. 41 An inevitable dualism bisects nature, so that each thing is a half, and suggests another thing to make it whole. 1877 E. CAIRD Philos. Kant ii. 12 A dualism between knowing and being, between the ‘me’ and the ‘not me’.

2. Gram. The fact of expressing two in number.
1874 SAYCE Compar. Philol. vii. 276 We find many others [languages] in which the formal expression of plurality has never passed beyond that of dualism.

3. A theory or system of thought which recognizes two independent principles. spec.
a. Philos. The doctrine that mind and matter exist as distinct entities; opposed to idealism and materialism.
b. The doctrine that there are two independent principles, one good and the other evil.
c. Theol. The doctrine, attributed by his opponents to Nestorius, that Christ consisted of two personalities.

1794 MATHIAS Purs. Lit. [1798] 65 Then he introduces..the two principles or dualism (a little more French jargon) the monde animé and the monde machine. 1836-7 SIR W. HAMILTON Metaph. (1877) I. xvi. 293, I would be inclined to denominate those who implicitly acquiesce in the primitive duality as given in Consciousness, the Natural Realists or Natural Dualists, and their doctrine Natural Realism or Natural Dualism. 1847 BUCH tr. Hagenbach’s Hist. Doctr. I. 93 The Gnostic doctrine of two supreme beings (dualism). 1864 PUSEY Lect. Daniel (1865) 529 The characteristic error of the Zend religion, its Dualism, was its blot from the first. 1872 LIDDON Elem. Relig. iv. 148 Manicheeism was the Dualism which had acquired a Christian flavour by coming into contact with Christianity. 1882 FARRAR Early Chr. I. 263 The dualism the existence of matter as the source of evil apart from God finds a distinct expression in the Wisdom of Solomon. 1882-3 SCHAFF Encycl. Rel. Knowl. I. 669 According to dualism existence itself is based on a contrariety which appears in philosophy as spirit and matter.

4. Chem. The theory, originated by Berzelius, now abandoned, that every compound is constituted of two parts which have opposite electricities.

1884 MUIR Princ. Chem. I. ii. iii. §54 Dumas’ discovery of the chloracetic acids which marks the beginning of the revolt against the compound radicles of dualism.

Defining Nondualism:

You can see how much of a challenge and, really, how much fun it would be to define nondualism using the OED model. What’s the earliest use of the word nondualism? What quotations would you select? How about the words nondual, nondualist, nondualize, nonduality? They, too, would have to be defined in the same detail. Certainly there are fine quotations using those words.

And how about definitions for neo-nonduality? Neo-nondualist? Neo-nondualism? Or — I think I just invented a word — neo-nondualize?

–Jerry Katz

Also see What Is Nonduality?