Monthly Archives: March 2010

The Nonduality Movement: Part Four

Hi Jerry,

I think with the advent of the internet, the overall scenario has indeed changed. If we think of it, some centuries ago, anyone interested in non-duality would have to search a living “teacher”, for most did not read or write. Till a few years ago, one had the option of reading books. But with internet, and mainly these forums, there is this opportunity to participate actively in a dynamic that was unavailable before. Where would I meet others to discuss these matters just a few years ago? Where would I be able to look more deeply into the hidden nature of the sense of ego that is revealed in these exchanges?
So…. this “new” environment certainly must make some difference. Or perhaps none, if it only leads to more entertainment to escape from the implosion.

The Feminist (Women’s) Movement changed consciousness even though many influenced by it didn’t bother to study academic papers or to read the significant books or attend meetings. The message of the Feminist Movement about equal rights hit home on everyday fronts: voting, pregnancy, the workplace, relationships, lifestyles, politics, ecology. The Feminist Movement is a model for giving structure to the nonduality movement, as far as looking at it in waves and describing each wave and looking at the movement in terms of scope, social change, and effects on religion, science, and other disciplines.

I see the Feminist, Eco-Feminist, and Nonduality Movements as merging more fully. But it would be helpful to define the Nonduality Movement so that it can more easily fit into these other movements. Ken Wilber has somewhat of a movement going with the Integral Institute and the Integral way of looking at things.

A person could ride the Nonduality Movement on the backs of Intergral Theory, or quantum theory, or neo-advaita, or Sufism, or as a Catholic monk, or as a new ager, or as nothing. Primarily, the message of nonduality becomes known, accepted, debated, refined, altered, and then one lives life with a deep and serious valuing of that message which can be worded in different ways.

My objective is to declare that there is a Nonduality Movement and to begin to describe it. People can see it, especially those who have been on the internet for a few years.

If I were creating a panel discussion on the topic of the Nonduality Movement, who would people like to see on it?

The Nonduality Movement: Part One
The Nonduality Movement: Part Two
The Nonduality Movement: Part Three

The Nonduality Movement: Part Three

The New Nonduality: The Nonduality Movement

Jerry Katz

In these times, both traditional and neo-Advaita exist in the matrix known as the new nonduality and they spread throughout the matrix thus creating what I call The Nonduality Movement.

The New Nonduality is in fact The Nonduality Movement. It is a matrix made up of every field of human endeavor. What moves through it, thus creating it, is the teaching of nonduality (usually along with a form of the word nonduality).

The word “nonduality” or one of its forms — nondual, nondualism, nondualistic, nondualist — serves as a marker revealing the movement.

I was interviewed a few days ago by a woman who, in preparation for the interview, googled “nonduality.” She told me that she thought there would very little about the topic and that it wouldn’t be hard to prepare. However, she was overwhelmed by the choices. I told her it wasn’t always like that. Had she done the search more than ten years ago, the pickings would have been too slim to prepare for such an interview.

Comparing the search engine results for the word nonduality now and yesterday, it is clear that the teaching of nonduality has “moved.” It has diffused.

My eyes these days are on The Nonduality Movement in Western culture. We have seen the movement happen on the Internet. It began in its most direct form in the latter part of the 19th Century, which is when we find the first uses of the forms of the word nonduality. Prior to the Internet, there were many gurus and teachings that have advanced nondual teachings, yet one couldn’t say for sure that there was ever a Nonduality Movement during those decades.

We are in the midst of The Nonduality Movement. It means that the teaching of nonduality, in one form or another, through its diffusion, propagation, circulation, is finding everyone who is open minded about human potential and about who they truly are and why they are alive. That audience consists of the spiritual mainstream and everyone else who questions what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, and what is behind what they are doing.

My thoughts are somewhat scattered on this topic, however they are coming forth as blog entires. Perhaps they’ll be made more coherent in the near future.


The Nonduality Movement: Part One
The Nonduality Movement: Part Two

The Nonduality Movement: Part Two

The Nonduality Movement: Part Two

Read The Nonduality Movement: Part One

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a “movement” as “A course or series of actions and endeavours on the part of a group of people working towards a shared goal.”

I don’t think a movement has to be as intentional and organized as the OED implies. For example, while the anti Vietnam War movement was intentional and organized, the Beat Movement was about freedom and being in the moment, rather than intent and organization. However, the Beat Movement was more of a meta-movement since it informed other movements, including the anti Vietnam War movement. This is from the Wikipedia article on the Beat Generation:

…the Beat Generation phenomenon itself has had a huge influence on Western Culture more broadly. In many ways, the Beats can be taken as the first subculture (here meaning a cultural subdivision on lifestyle/political grounds, rather than on any obvious difference in ethnic or religious backgrounds). During the very conformist post-World War II era they were one of the forces engaged in a questioning of traditional values which produced a break with the mainstream culture that to this day people react to – or against. The Beats produced a great deal of interest in lifestyle experimentation (notably in regards to sex and drugs); and they had a large intellectual effect in encouraging the questioning of authority (a force behind the anti-war movement); and many of them were very active in popularizing interest in Zen Buddhism in the West.

In 1982, Ginsberg published a summary of “the essential effects” of the Beat Generation [35]:

* Spiritual liberation, sexual “revolution” or “liberation,” i.e., gay liberation, somewhat catalyzing women’s liberation, black liberation, Gray Panther activism.

* Liberation of the world from censorship.

* Demystification and/or decriminalization of cannabis and other drugs.

* The evolution of rhythm and blues into rock and roll as a high art form, as evidenced by the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and other popular musicians influenced in the later fifties and sixties by Beat generation poets’ and writers’ works.

* The spread of ecological consciousness, emphasized early on by Gary Snyder and Michael McClure, the notion of a “Fresh Planet.”

* Opposition to the military-industrial machine civilization, as emphasized in writings of Burroughs, Huncke, Ginsberg, and Kerouac.

* Attention to what Kerouac called (after Spengler) a “second religiousness” developing within an advanced civilization.

* Return to an appreciation of idiosyncrasy as against state regimentation.

* Respect for land and indigenous peoples and creatures, as proclaimed by Kerouac in his slogan from On the Road: “The Earth is an Indian thing.”

The Nonduality Movement is associated with promoting those values, though it is beyond promoting any values at all. Therefore, the Nonduality Movement is even more of a meta-movement than the Beat Movement. The Nonduality Movement is also more accessible than the Beat Movement was. It’s not defined by a handful of people, by coolness or being “in,” or by a literature, a music, a political stance, a lifestyle, or by a style of any sort, or by anything I’ve yet to identify. It is admitted not only that nonduality cannot be defined, but that it does not exist. Yet there is a movement founded in nonduality.

Where and how can the Nonduality Movement be identified? I’ll consider that and other questions in future blog entries.

-Jerry Katz

What Is Nonduality? Responses from the Science and Nonduality Conference 2009. Part Three.

Science and Nonduality Anthology, Volume 3
Interviews of participants at the Science and Nonduality Conference 2009.

3-DVD set, 21 interviews, 600 minutes

The following are excerpts from responses to the question, What is nonduality? They are found on Volume 3 of the DVD set:

What Is Nonduality?

Peter Russell, Author, Philosopher:

Nonduality … means the universe is not dual, there is one common essence to the universe. … Science is nondual. It’s basic philosophy is that there is a unified field, a oneness which we are approaching. In spiritual circles … the nonduality is where the essence is awareness … consciousness … a different sort of nonduality … both of them see the fundamental nature of things, the oneness behind everything.

Thomas Ray, Professor of Zoology and Computer Science, University of Oklahoma:

Nonduality involves absence of self or sense of self and the feeling of oneness or unity with everything, with the universe. I’ve believed that nonduality is just the plain truth. The universe is one thing and we’re all part of the universe and that it isn’t nonduality that needs explanation, it’s duality that needs explanation. In fact, there is a mental organ that produces duality, just one. Without the activity of that mental organ, we would experience nonduality as the normal state.

Shaikh Kabir Helminski, Author, Sufi teacher:

The way we see it in the Sufi tradition is that — particularly for mystic consciousness — we understand that everything is rooted in the divine. Everything is unified in a field of oneness. Practically speaking what that means is that my consciousness, my love, my will, my generosity if I have any, my capacity for forgiveness, all of these have their attributes in the source of the divine. … This nonduality has a kind of quality to it … that is deeply personal as well as cosmic and impersonal because we realize the human being is the ripened fruit of that nonduality. The nonduality doesn’t cancel our human individuality. … We don’t make a big deal about nonduality because we know and trust that everything comes from God. The God that we’re talking about is subtle and integral to this whole creation. … Poetry suggests it. We communicate more through poetry than through abstract theory.

John Prendergast, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Psychology, CIIS

Nonduality, for me, points to the basic absence of difference between self and other, between subject and object, between perceiver and perceived. When the Buddha said form is emptiness and emptiness is form, this is statement of nondual perception. When nothing looks out and sees that it’s everything, this is the experience of nonduality. The apparent division between self and other is seen through. … The reality of the seamless wholeness nature of reality reveals itself. … It’s a deep understanding and knowing that there is essentially no separation.

Olga Louchakova, Director, Neurophenomenology Research Center, ITP Prof.:

Nonduality is the certain perspective on self and consciousness which makes one to experience being and consciousness as undivided and nonseparate from every other consciousness which can be perceived initially as different. It’s the experience of consciousness as being undivided, experience of your own being as being connected with the rest of the universe, and being one with the rest of the universe even though you may not have the perception of the whole universe at the moment. Most importantly, the experience of nonduality is the experience of authenticity, of authentic, unlimited, nonconstricted being, experience of being yourself, experience of living life with no fear.

Tim Freke, Scholar, Author, Stand up Philosopher:

My experience is that fundamentally reality is characterized by polarity. For me it’s not nondual or dual. It’s both at the same time. … Polarity is opposites, but they can only exist together. … They’re two and one at the same time. The paradox of our predicament is that it’s two and one at the same time. I see no reason to prejudice one over the other. In fact, I see a necessity to be conscious of both. What I’ve looked for is an image that can capture that experience. For me the image is lucid living, which is a state comparable to lucid dreaming, only now. … On the one hand I am Tim … I’m actually so individual that I inhabit this unique point in space and time and no one else can or ever will inhabit it. Then there’s the discovery of this deeper nature, the subject itself, not the object, the “I”, that which is witnessing this, and if I go deeply into that now it is a vast spaciousness in which all this is arising just like in a dream. And those two exist together, so “here” it’s all one, “here” it’s all separate. Which is true? They’re both true.

Science and Nonduality Anthology, Volume 3
Interviews of participants at the Science and Nonduality Conference 2009.

What Is Nonduality? Responses from the Science and Nonduality Conference 2009. Part Two.

Science and Nonduality Anthology, Volume 2
Interviews of participants at the Science and Nonduality Conference 2009.

3-DVD set, 21 interviews, 600 minutes

The following are excerpts from responses to the question, What is nonduality? They are found on Volume 2 of the DVD set:

What Is Nonduality?

Francis Lucille, nonduality teacher

The definition for nonduailty would be that there is one single reality. We all have the knowledge that we are conscious and that consciousness is real. That which hears the words is consciousness. That is beyond a shadow of a doubt. …The world is only a concept which is inferred from perceptions. Perceptions are mind stuff. … Consciousness is the reality of our experience. If there is only one reality … the reality of all minds must be the same. That is the fundamental understanding of nonduality.

Robert Dittler, Abbot/Bishop, White Robed Monks of St. Benedict

[Silence. The video shows him smiling, shrugging, nodding, being.]

Jeremy Hayward, teacher of meditation, science, and Buddhism with Shambhala Buddhism

Literally what we’re talking about is the non-distinction of nonduality of I and other primarily … distinctions come from the conceptual mind that divides the world into this and that and the primary one is the distinction between me and you, me and that, me, me. That’s duality. It becomes a problem when we forget there is no me. … There’s just a flow of energy and awareness and then something pops up and says, “ME” and that’s starts duality. But duality and nonduality are two sides of the same coin. You can’t separate one from the other, you have to see the whole thing, which is duality and nonduality together.

Jeff Foster, nonduality teacher

I really don’t know what nonduality is anymore. Years ago I could have told you a lot about nonduality. The word nonduality is just a pointer. It points to life as it’s happening and the possibility that we’re not separate from life. The moment you talk about nonduality you kind of missed the point. … The moment you talk about it you’ve made it into something separate from something else … which is completely dualistic. So what is nonduality. I guess the answer is there when the question isn’t, somehow.

Nahid Angha, Co-director of the International Association of Sufism

The question of nonduality has been the concern of human beings since the beginning of civilization, because we want to see if there is any essence to all that there is. … What is nonduality when we see around ourselves duality? Is there any essence to [duality]? … In Sufism we come to the metaphor of raindrop and ocean. When it falls into the ocean it realizes that it is the ocean. So unless we find that reality within our own selves, then duality remains.

Bernard Baars, The Neurosciences Institute of San Diego

Nonduality in Sanskrit … is the theory that one can perceive the world in a completely unified fashion. … Nondualism is said to be the ultimate state that one may arrive at, after many years or perhaps very quickly.

Science and Nonduality Anthology, Volume 2
Interviews of participants at the Science and Nonduality Conference 2009.

3-DVD set, 21 interviews, 600 minutes

What Is Nonduality? Responses from the Science and Nonduality Conference 2009

Science and Nonduality Anthology, Volume 1
Interviews of participants at the Science and Nonduality Conference 2009.

3-DVD set, 21 interviews, 600 minutes

The following are excerpts from responses to the question, What is nonduality? They are found on Volume 1 of the DVD set:

What Is Nonduality?

Peter Fenner:

I can’t give you a definition of it because there’s nothing to define. That’s the definition. It’s the one and only thing that can be defined, in a way, by its absence. The nondual awareness: we can’t say what it is, we can’t say where it is. In fact, it’s going beyond existence and non-existence. That’s what it means to be nondual. If we say it exists, that’s in contrast to it not existing, that’s not nondual. If we say it does not exist, that’s in contrast to it existing. So here you can already feel that we’re way beyond the mind. The mind does not know what we’re talking about. … I don’t know what I’m talking about at this point, and that is one of the ways we can point to nondual awareness.

Stephen Wolinksy:

There’s no such thing as nonduality … Nonduality is just a word, it’s a pointer. But once you have nonduality, you have duality. So the question is, is there such a thing as nonduality prior to the word nonduality?

Rupert Spira:

Nonduality as the phrase implies, literally means not two. There are not two things. It makes reference to the presumption deeply embedded in all cultures, that experience is divided into two things, one, a knower, and two, the known. … The term duality makes reference to these two apparent things, a knowing subject, which is considered to be this body, or in this body, and a known object — other, person, world — which is considered to be outside myself and separate from myself. The term nonduality indicates the true nature of our experience, which, if we make a deep exploration of our actual experience, we find there are not these two things. There is just one. … not two. … That leaves what there is truly, completely open, unnamed, untouched, but yet absolutely present in every experience.

Vijay Kapoor:

Nonduality would be not the absence of duality. It is something which transcends duality. … In our experience we have youth, we have old age, we having the waking state, dream state, we have lots of different dualities, male, female… What we find is the very basic consciousness has no duality. It is independent of time. … Consciousness has no dependence whatsoever. … The very content of duality does not have duality.

Rabbi Hoffman:

If you name it you’ve already changed it. Our basic idea about nonduality is … an infinite light with no end that has no differentiation in it, no light or dark, no positive or negative, … or any of these dualities. … We don’t supress any question. We pray our questions. Our doubts are very holy. Out of a good question comes a lot of thinking. … The question is, “What motivated the creation of the universe?” Because there was no room in this nonduality for the so-called narcissistic ego that could choose to rebel against the nonduality and assert its individuality selfishly against the nonduality. This is the puzzle of Torah. We start from there then we go on to celebrate the existence of both. What we’re interested in is the conversation between the duality, or the left brain thinking — the “I” that strategizes — and the right side, which feels part of a unity without any differentiation. How do you give way to both sides and create a conversation between the two? What we believe is that G-d is the name of the one that cannot be named. How do you create G-d as the oscillating tension between the two that exist in the conversation. My operant metaphor for that is somebody walking a tightrope.

Science and Nonduality Anthology, Volume 1
Interviews of participants at the Science and Nonduality Conference 2009.

3-DVD set, 21 interviews, 600 minutes

“Show me the paradox!” The Nondualist Phone Call

Question: “In Sri Nisargadatta’s talks the world is only in the perceiver’s mind. So would the person I am perceiving also be aware of me perceiving him?”

Answer: The question, as far as enquiry goes, is, “Who is the ‘me’ perceiving him or anything else?”

The “me”, like the world, is in the perceiver’s mind.

If it should become seen that the world is in the mind, then the questions of “me” and “him” dissolve in that seeing. There is only what is arising now and it is what it is.

All things are made of the same “stuff”, yet all things appear individualistic. The question of how things interact becomes moot at the point of seeing that all is exactly what it is in this instant. All questions dissolve in that moment.

Still, from the point of view of parapsychology and quantum theory and other disciplines, it is an interesting question about how perceivers are aware of each other. I don’t have all the theories and studies at hand to relate or summarize, nor are they the point of this response.

There is the day to day way of addressing questions, in this case by talking about parapsychology and quantum theory. And there is also the absolute way of addressing questions, in which questions are revealed to dissolve into that out of which they arose, like a wave out of the ocean.

Nisargadatta is sometimes “day to day” and sometimes absolute in his responses. Questions dissolve into the Absolute and get addressed at the day to day level, both.

The answer to the question is that there is no question, no “me” asking the question, and, at the very same time, there is an interaction between perceived and perceiver that quantum theory, parapsychology, psychology, physics, sociology, and other disciplines study and address.

There is no answer and there is an answer. Discussions about nonduality are presentations of paradox. Where the materialist (you and me?) calls out, “Show me the money!”, the nondualist gets on the phone and shouts, “Show me the paradox!”

Mysticism is More Like a Hobby These Days

The New York Times
March 8, 2010
Op-Ed Columnist
Mass-Market Epiphany


Mysticism is dying, and taking true religion with it. Monasteries have dwindled. Contemplative orders have declined. Our religious leaders no longer preach the renunciation of the world; our culture scoffs at the idea. The closest most Americans come to real asceticism is giving up chocolate, cappuccinos, or (in my own not-quite-Francis-of-Assisi case) meat for lunch for Lent.

This, at least, is the stern message of Luke Timothy Johnson, writing in the latest issue of the Catholic journal Commonweal. As society has become steadily more materialistic, Johnson declares, our churches have followed suit, giving up on the ascetic and ecstatic aspects of religion and emphasizing only the more worldly expressions of faith. Conservative believers fixate on the culture wars, religious liberals preach social justice, and neither leaves room for what should be a central focus of religion — the quest for the numinous, the pursuit of the unnamable, the tremor of bliss and the dark night of the soul.

Yet by some measures, mysticism’s place in contemporary religious life looks more secure than ever. Our opinion polls suggest that we’re encountering the divine all over the place. In 1962, after a decade-long boom in church attendance and public religiosity, Gallup found that just 22 percent of Americans reported having what they termed “a religious or mystical experience.” Flash forward to 2009, in a supposedly more secular United States, and that number had climbed to nearly 50 percent.

In a sense, Americans seem to have done with mysticism what we’ve done with every other kind of human experience: We’ve democratized it, diversified it, and taken it mass market. No previous society has offered seekers so many different ways to chase after nirvana, so many different paths to unity with God or Gaia or Whomever. A would-be mystic can attend a Pentecostal healing service one day and a class on Buddhism the next, dabble in Kabbalah in February and experiment with crystals in March, practice yoga every morning and spend weekends at an Eastern Orthodox retreat center. Sufi prayer techniques, Eucharistic adoration, peyote, tantric sex — name your preferred path to spiritual epiphany, and it’s probably on the table.

This democratization has been in many ways a blessing. Our horizons have been broadened, our religious resources have expanded, and we’ve even recovered spiritual practices that seemed to have died out long ago. The unexpected revival of glossolalia (speaking in tongues, that is), the oldest and strangest form of Christian worship, remains one of the more remarkable stories of 20th-century religion.

And yet Johnson may be right that something important is being lost as well. By making mysticism more democratic, we’ve also made it more bourgeois, more comfortable, and more dilettantish. It’s become something we pursue as a complement to an upwardly mobile existence, rather than a radical alternative to the ladder of success. Going to yoga classes isn’t the same thing as becoming a yogi; spending a week in a retreat center doesn’t make me Thomas Merton or Thérèse of Lisieux. Our kind of mysticism is more likely to be a pleasant hobby than a transformative vocation.

What’s more, it’s possible that our horizons have become too broad, and that real spiritual breakthroughs require a kind of narrowing — the decision to pick a path and stick with it, rather than hopscotching around in search of a synthesis that “works for me.” The great mystics of the past were often committed to a particular tradition and community, and bound by the rules (and often the physical confines) of a specific religious institution. Without these kind of strictures and commitments, Johnson argues, mysticism drifts easily into a kind of solipsism: “Kabbalism apart from Torah-observance is playacting; Sufism disconnected from Shariah is vague theosophy; and Christian mysticism that finds no center in the Eucharist or the Passion of Christ drifts into a form of self-grooming.”

Most religious believers will never be great mystics, of course, and the American way of faith is kinder than many earlier eras to those of us who won’t. But maybe it’s become too kind, and too accommodating. Even ordinary belief — the kind that seeks epiphanies between deadlines, and struggles even with the meager self-discipline required to get through Lent — depends on extraordinary examples, whether they’re embedded in our communities or cloistered in the great silence of a monastery. Without them, faith can become just another form of worldliness, therapeutic rather than transcendent, and shorn of any claim to stand in judgment over our everyday choices and concerns.

Without them, too, we give up on what’s supposed to be the deep promise of religious practice: that at any time, in any place, it’s possible to encounter the divine, the revolutionary and the impossible — and have your life completely shattered and remade.

Are you watching a movie of a blank screen?

Perhaps you think you see the blank screen upon which the movie of your life is projected.

However, it might be another movie … of a blank screen.

Here’s another anti-definition of nonduality:

Defining nonduality is like making a movie of a blank screen and casting it on a blank screen.

Don’t think too much about the metaphor. Just realize that there is an offset between the movie of the blank screen and the raw actuality of the blank screen.

Nonduality: Definitions, Non-Definitions, Un-Definitions, and Anti-Definitions

There are endless definitions, non-definitions, un-definitions, and anti-definitions of nonduality. They are all pointings to the nondual.

I like to say that nonduality means there are not two things, so no things are separate. Yet things appear distinct, separate, and highly individualistic.That’s paradoxical, crazy, humorous, and not the case. But it’s a definition you can sort of “get.” It gives the mind something to chew on. It’s a definition with traction.

Just minutes ago I heard Peter Fenner on a video say that nonduality is “going beyond existence and non-existence.” There’s no traction with that definition. It’s “way beyond the mind,” Fenner says. It’s a different way of defining nonduality; it’s more of a non-definition. But it’s a pointer.

Dan Berkow has said that “defining nonduality is like adding legs to a snake.” That’s an un-definition.

Kenneth Madden recently gave this anti-definition: “Non-duality or Advaita then becomes the last refuge of the individual who is under threat. It is fodder for the mind. It becomes the new, best concept in town as it were.”

Stephen Wolinsky, at the last Science and Nonduality Conference announced cheerfully and insistently to a large audience, “There’s no such thing as nonduality!” Another anti-definition. He says the same thing on the video I mentioned above.

So there ya go. For another hundred definitions please visit

Start with a definition you can “get” but don’t settle for it. Question it. The consideration of definitions of nonduality is itself a form of inquiry, a spiritual practice.