The following exchange is from the Open Awareness Study Group
One thing I keep wondering – is there any utility in non-dual awareness? I don’t mean you only seek this in hopes of suddenly getting checks in the mail, a la The Secret ;’) I realize that awareness is the primary goal, but are there any other fruits from that tree?
It’s a tough world and there are many harsh things to deal with. Indigenes are still being slaughtered for their resources. Haitians starve. And here, more and more are going homeless due to the economy.
In your experience, does nonduality provide any emotional or ideational advantage in dealing with the world? That is, can you deal better with emotions that naturally arise during harsh events? Do you get better ideas or see opportunities, or perhaps, chance on to better coincidences than before?
One reason for asking this, is that I feel the public needs this, but as it is often presented, it appears valueless and nihilistic – Advaita Apathy. It will never catch on the way it is now perceived. Perhaps there needs to be Some icing on the cake.
I feel nonduality has great value and does not need to be presented in a rigid and bloodless way. I was listening to recordings of Alan Watts, for instance, and although he has much the same message, he puts it in terms of a dance, rather than “emptiness.” He speaks with great humor and charm, not just declaiming inscrutabilities.
Hi Jim. Good question. Teachers are often reluctant to make it seem as if there IS something to gain in terms of a personal benefit. Presenting non-duality as having benefits can have the tendency of putting a carrot out beyond the reach of the ego, as something to go chasing. From that view, enlightenment looks much like a fantasy where the “me” will feel total bliss, or will live without problems, and the world will be at peace or whatever. When the mind gets a hold of ideas like that, it tends to treat enlightenment as some future state to look for. And that’s a trap. The ego just goes on chasing carrots. That’s its job.
But I don’t take the view that we cannot talk about some of the possible benefits of realization. There is great compassion, freedom, and love available in the seeing of non-separation. There is the capacity to no longer absolutize viewpoints. So being right takes a backseat. That has profound implications in terms of worldly conflict and basic relationship issues.
But these benefits are not really personal benefits. This is not something we get to add to our personal stories and say, “I feel so free” or “I am so compassionate” or “I have gained such peace.” There is an impersonal aspect to this. T o the “person,” impersonal sounds cold and bloodless, as you say. But this comes from not seeing where the words are actually pointing. This is why experiential investigation is so important. It is not enough to leave non-duality on the level of the intellect.
In experientially looking to where the words are pointing, we see that “impersonal” is not cold and bloodless. It is the capacity to see each and every viewpoint as an appearance of awareness. It is knowing that what I am is what you are. This is emptiness dancing as Watts says. Life isn’t personal anymore. It’s no longer just about “me and my life” here and “you and your separate life” over there. So when you see an other, when looking as impersonal awareness, you are seeing another appearance of what you are. You aren’t seeing individual people, individual nations, with rigid boundaries. You aren’t seeing Haitians starving. YOU are starving.
For those who believe that non-duality is about acting as if the world doesn’t exist, that is only a phase. The “world” just means thought. Thought is the world. The world of separate things appears as thought appears. If the goal is to deny thought, then the goal is to deny the world. The pointer “recognize non-conceptual awareness” is not an invitation to deny appearances (deny thoughts). It is an invitation to see that the world is conceptual. Non-duality can seem nihilistic from the viewpoint that nothing exists. But nihilism is a viewpoint of the separate self that has disconnected itself (or so it thinks) from the world. IT’s just a story. It takes a person to be detached from something else–from the world.
But the greatest thing you can do for the world is see that your entire suffering, on a personal level, is illusory. It isn’t real. Take that investigation seriously and you find the peace within. And you find that when this conflict within you is resolved, it is resolved out in the world also. This has to be experienced to be known. The mind won’t grasp it. A certain element of trust is involved in taking the first steps towards looking into this.
Isn’t non-separation love? And isn’t love the basic sword that cuts through all suffering? If so, is there not a great capacity for transformation there? In this seeing, you don’t go around saying, “I have no mother.” “There is no self.” “There is no world.” Those are insights along the way. They lose their importance. They fall away. And then the thought arises, “Hi Mother.” And there is your mother dying on her deathbed. And you look at her as your own true Self. You look at her without your stories. You look at her without imposing your own fear of death upon her (which is just your own personal stuff anyway, having nothing to do with her). You sit with her as presence, as love itself. And that has all the transformative power in the universe in it.
Read more dialogues with Scott Kiloby at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/OAStudyGroup/