What is Nonduality?

This is an introductory article. To discover many more definitions of nonduality, please click here.

Nonduality means “not two” or “non-separation.” It is the sense that all things are interconnected and not separate, while at the same time all things retain their individuality.

We tend to view the world as made up of separated, pretty much isolated “entities.” By entities is meant everything: people, political parties, beliefs, nations, objects in nature, and most importantly one’s very own individual self.

The experience of nonduality

Yet one may know any number of instances in which you — your individual self — fades into an experience. You realize you are not separate from your experience, nor are the apparent entities making up the experience separate from the experience or from you, and that all of it — the experience, you, the players making up the experience —  are all essentially one thing . . .  much like a dream.

Such an instance may happen from being in nature, from enjoying music or art, or from being deeply involved in a hobby or work. It may be known during sex. It may occur while walking in the park, while dancing, surfing, or having a few beers with some awesome people.

The experience of nonduality may be realized during meditation, yoga, or from reading something that blows your mind.

The nondual moment may happen for no reason at all: maybe you’re sitting on your deck and geese fly by, or maybe you’re driving your car and suddenly everything is different, or perhaps you just woke up from a sleep.

You have almost certainly had at least one such nondual experience in your life, and probably several.

Arising out of this experience might be an uncommonly genuine happiness. However, the experience may also rock your world such that it is never again the same, for now you see the world not as separate entities struggling for survival, but as a single experience of non-separation  . . . again, much like a dream.

The Pursuit of Nonduality

If the experience of nonduality is important to you — and no law says it has to be — you may have the need to find out more. If the experience has altered your life, you may have no choice but to understand what happened.

Your pursuit may take you to various websites and online groups, books, and people who might provide guidance and clarity. You may engage spiritual practices, attend meetings with nondual teachers, go on retreats. Whatever you do, whatever happens to you in this pursuit, will be unique for you.

This pursuit could begin at any time. Even if you had a powerful nondual experience decades ago, but never investigated it deeply, you could start today. However, don’t waste your time trying to “bring back” a past experience. Rather, focus on what it awakened.

How do you initiate the pursuit of nonduality? Lots of advice could be given. However, there is endless information online. More essentially, there is you, your existence. You could begin right there, right here, by attending to the fact that you are aware. “I am aware.” . . . “I am.”

In this regard, you might like the works of Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta Maharaj, and Wei Wu Wei. Effective living teachers include Adyashanti, Francis Lucille, Greg Goode, Chuck Hillig, Galen Sharp, Bob Adamson, Rupert Spira. Many other guides, confessors, realizers, teachers, sages, gurus, both living and deceased, will be discovered.

Brief descriptions of what nonduality (or Advaita) is:

Bede Griffiths:
“Advaita (nonduality) does not mean “one” in the sense of eliminating all differences. The differences are present in the one in a mysterious way. They are not separated anymore, and yet they are there.”

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.

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.

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. http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com (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?

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 dohave 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. http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com (10 Jul. 2008).

The Nonduality Definer

Silence, non-definitions, anti-definitions, koan-like responses, or a whack with a Zen stick, may be the best responses to the question, “What is nonduality?”, but allow me to be more language-bound. Responding the following points will guide you in constructing a commonplace definition of nonduality:

A statement that nonduality means non-separation

A confession from your knowing

A statement that defining nonduality requires experiencing it

A method for experiencing nonduality

A metaphor

A reference to an authority

A disclaimer based on the paradox exposed by trying to define nonduality

Add another element, such as etymology, quotations from different periods of time, or different short definitions such as would appear in a dictionary.

Submit your definitions as a comment to this entry.

Also, if you are a lexicographer or have an serious interest in the history of the use of the words nonduality, nondual, or nondualism, and would like to work on a project defining those words for the Oxford English Dictionary, leave a comment or contact me at jerry at nonduality.com.

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.

Peter Fenner has said 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.

So there ya go. For another hundred definitions please visit http://nonduality.com/whatis.htm

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.

What Is Nonduality, Really?

Nonduality today consists of a wide array of expressions on themes of oneness, interconnectedness, non-separateness, and paradox. These expressions are found in many fields of knowledge and endeavor: science, psychology, religion, spirituality, martial arts, poetry, music, art, literature, communication, education.

The desire to awaken often leads to a search and the discovery of some form of nonduality.

The purpose of my work in nonduality is to provide many opportunities for discovery. It considers nonduality as both a practical tool for more effective living and a pointing to what is. My work also includes the deconstruction of nonduality, and the deconstruction of deconstruction.

In other words, there’s both something to nonduality and nothing to it. Out of some colors of existence something is fashioned and it is called nonduality. But what is nonduality, really? Knowing what it really is, there is laughter, enjoyment … and another email to open!

-Jerry Katz


To discover many more definitions of nonduality, please click here.

As well, read the comments and leave your own!

37 thoughts on “What is Nonduality?

  1. Jim Dodds/Arupa

    Nonduality is just what it says. There is one. There is no problem. As awareness, which has been background, comes to the foreground, the dilemma softens and begins to disappear. Whose dilemma? Well, what generated this ego that chases its own tail?


  2. Arek

    If one is angry – anxious – hypnotized by thought no knowledge will help.

    Nonduality is simply always perceiving everything perceivable at the beginning.

    Please, try this.


  3. William Talada

    Nondualism is the end of religious and spiritual searching and all thought systems because you see they don’t lead you into peace. You dis-identify from the childish mind and go into true self which is the silent witness before conceptual thought. Enlightenment is the result of anihilating the ego mind made self and becoming the holy ghost or still small voice. It is a place of complete integrity, peace, and joy. Any act of non-integrity causes mental thought energy which tries to recreate an ego and justify your action but a nondual person will be aware and improve integrity and disregard the mind’s attempt to recreate an ego. Make no mistake; there is no other path to enlightenment.


  4. George Poggemann

    What is nonduality

    The philosophy of Non-Dualism is the point of view that there is one Absolute Reality without a second and that each of us is one with that Reality, just as a wave is one with the ocean. It asserts that experiencing Ultimate Reality is the goal of life. Advaita, another name for Non-Dualism, sees other religions, practices and philosophies as tools that ultimately lead to the direct experience of Absolute Reality.
    To discriminate between what is real and what is not real, it is necessary to define what is meant by real and not real. In this philosophy only that which neither changes nor ceases to exist is real. No object or knowledge can be absolutely real if its existence is only temporary. The unreal includes every “thing,” all names and forms, our minds and thoughts, everything. The universe looks real but is not permanent. It is an illusion. We can’t say it exists nor can we say it doesn’t exist. It is neither real nor non-existent. It is magical. It’s a mystery.
    Reality is not a thing at all. It is no-thing, nothing. An innocent term for it would be pure spirit, or pure consciousness. It has no parts. If we look for it, we are an eye looking for itself. It is experienced but cannot be described. It is ineffable. This Pure Consciousness is permanent existence, knowledge and bliss and is one with man’s inner self.
    When we wake up from a dream the dream world disappears. Non-Dualism teaches that when we wake up to reality this world disappears. The world of thought and matter is a misreading of pure spirit and nothing more. It has a phenomenal or relative existence superimposed upon Absolute Reality by ignorance and remains superimposed until ignorance is destroyed by knowledge of reality, commonly called Spiritual Enlightenment


  5. Felix

    To those reading: be careful of mixing up nondualism with monoism. As the article says, nonduality is the understanding that things are not separate, not that they are the same. Granted, all separation is approximation, but different parts making up everything are just that, different, connected, but not the same. It’s the sense of scope that matters, that causes the separation to appear to manifest, just that at a fundamental level, everything is connected.


  6. masud

    Life is a game of fun
    God is enjoying the fun
    Break up the fun
    And end the game of God with you

    From Bangladesh


  7. Non Discrimination

    Non duality = Non discrimination. Not a thing is better or worse than any other thing. God is no better or worse than Devil. Both unique. No choice, no discrimination, INDIFFERENT.


  8. Diego

    Hi All,

    If samsara is nirvana (ref. Madhyamaka school), then why does it make a difference if one is aware of this fact or not? That is, if we are all enlightened already, then why do we have to dwell in awareness in order to be realized? Isn’t this merely creating another dualistic construct, ie, between awareness (and associated realization) and non-awareness?



  9. Jerry Post author

    Hi, thanks for your comment. It deserves a response that quotes Buddhist passages and perhaps someone will provide that. On the level of “enlightened already” it doesn’t matter whether the difference between samsara and nirvana is known. On the human and worldly level it makes a difference as long as there is the desire to awaken or to understand the nature of things. However, a person with the interest and desire to awaken does not have to focus on topics of samsara and nirvana or the goal of dwelling in awareness. There are other ways to turn attention.


  10. Jim Dodds

    We do not have to dwell in awareness to be realized. We only have to give up the pretense that we aren’t awake — or not. There is no interconnectedness, because to connect one must first be separate. There is no separation, just this. We’re just pretending, dreaming it all up. When you stop describing everything to yourself, that’s all over.


  11. jbeavinsingamiracleJohn Beavin

    Most of what I know of non-duality is what I’ve learned in many years of studying A COURSE IN MIRACLES, and, more specifically, Dr. Ken Wapnick’s writings and workshops on ACIM. For me, the greatest benefit in ACIM is its unrelenting explanation of why we chose, and still choose, the illusion of duality. Is acceptance of nonduality possible without this awareness? Thanks.


  12. Jerry Post author

    Hi John,

    Thanks for commenting. An ongoing look at how mental impressions create and shape the world allow one to accept duality, the arising sense of nonduality, or even the condition of nonduality. There are people with zero spiritual inclinations who get thrown into nondual awareness and they can either accept it or take steps to avoid it. At any step along the way from addictions and cravings to spiritual awareness to realization of the Self, there needs to be mindfulness, as the Buddhists would say. Mindfulness is this “unrelenting explanation” that you speak of. It’s the continual realization that I’m dying, falling apart. It’s the allowing of that so that what I am in truth may be known.



  13. nonduality1

    We are each the Dreamer waking from a dream within a dream. As we let go of the attachment, our sense of self as a ‘centre’, we cross the bridge of transcendence that is biologically created in the brain for spiritual awareness (the kingdom of heaven is within). We awaken and see ego is the nature of mind and the illusion of separation.

    Happy happenings,
    Robin Craig Clark


  14. Sam

    I am new to the topic, however since past few months I have read/listened to various gurus of non-duality. These days I feel I am getting closer and closer to understanding of what it (non duality) means and suddenly stop going further, because I get nervous, what if I really understand what it is & if I resign from daily life, who will pay my bills, my child’s school fees etc etc OR lets say if I continue to live a normal life, what if my passion to succeed (get increment, promotion, bigger house, better car etc) ceases, will be not an escape from my duties as seen from family/friends/peoples point of view, will it be not sort of unjust towards my family. Please enlighten.


  15. Jerry Post author

    Hi, thanks for your comment. Yeah, that’s the risk when one’s world perspective radically changes. It’s a gamble because no one knows how your life might change. If there is fear in this pursuit it might help to link up with a stable nondual tradition and teacher. And if you feel you have a choice in this pursuit of nonduality, then it’s not a choiceless pursuit and it really should be.


  16. Bill Talada

    Hi Sam, Your thinking is correct. Non-duality is aperspectival. All previous levels of psychological development come from a perspective which is useful developmentally. No perspective rocks because it is integral. You will need to give up the ideal self image (ego, values, expectations, judgments, roles). Because non-duality operates from a systems level there will be no exploitation. For example, rationalism leads to exploitation of environmental resources and class division due to having exclusive knowledge.

    You are also wrong. Aligning with truth through non-resistance (empiricism) will empower you to do great things. Your passion will come from unconditional love. You may no longer exploit from a view point but you will be in joy and peace. That is the greatest gift you can give to your family.

    I assure you. Going into non-duality is the greatest choice you will ever make.


  17. James Mooney

    webroot is blocking your site and telling me it has malicious content. Either webroot is wrong (and it’s a top program) or your site has been compromised. Howver, only your front page is being blocked. This one isn’t, so it might be code on your front page.


  18. June Bedard

    The first time it happened I was in a pub in Prince George BC in my 30’s. I was watching a couple I knew dancing and feeling jealous. He came my direction seeing my look and our eyes met and when I felt the urge to lower them I didn’t and with locked eyes something dissolved and I went into another space that was unaffected by anything. In about an hour though what was going on made me come out of it in an emotional moment? and I was back. It then happened occassionally again. The other would disappear. Years later as life carried on I finally leaped to a friend within as intention and found myself in this nothingness pure space.
    Just part of my life path. Today I’m frustrated about it all so came on to freshen up.


  19. Ted Biringer

    Greetings Jerry and all – In part to challenge subtle ‘dualisms’ that appear in certain comments cited above, and in part to try to reactivate this discussion I would like to submit the following comments [adapted from my forthcoming book, tentatively titled ‘Zen Cosmology’].

    ‘Nondual’ means ‘not two,’ which is not the same as ‘one.’ While ‘one’ can be used to denote the self-same identification of two (or more) apparently distinct or separate entities, ‘nondual’ only and always denotes two (or more) actual distinctions (apparent or not) inherent (thus essential) to a particular entity – thus essential to each other. The head and the tail of a coin are ‘one’ in that both constitute a single coin. The head and the tail are ‘nondual’ insofar as each is an essential attribute of the other – the existence of the head is integral to the existence of the tail (and vice versa). Where ‘one’ indicates an undifferentiated unity, ‘nondual’ indicates a differentiated unity.

    That a pair is ‘nondual’ means that the appearance and reality of each aspect of the pair is dependent on the existent presence of the other. [From the Zen perspective] this quality of dependence applies to each and all things, beings, and events, not only to commonly recognized ‘pairs’ like ‘heads and tails,’ ‘up and down,’ ‘existence and non-existence,’ ‘inside and outside,’ etc. Therefore, while ‘nonduality’ is most commonly treated and analyzed in terms of ‘nondual pairs,’ its fundamental reality and reasoning applies universally. In a sense, then, ‘nondual,’ literally ‘not-two,’ might be accurately rendered as ‘non-multiple’ or ‘non-many,’ at least in some cases.

    The main point here is that the Zen notion of ‘nonduality’ is concerned with reality’s universal characteristic of being simultaneously diverse and unified, instantaneously many and one. The most crucial implication of this being that each and every particular existent (i.e. dharma) is essential to the existence of every other particularity and of all particularities. The existence of each dharma is dependent on the existence of each other dharma and the existence of all dharmas, and the existence of all dharmas is dependent on the existence of each dharma.

    Contemporary works on Zen/Buddhism commonly treat the notion of nonduality almost exclusively in terms of ‘polarities’ or ‘opposites.’ In neglecting the wider ramifications of nonduality – which are its most significant ramifications – such accounts tend to foster distorted, antithetical notions of nonduality. Hee-Jin Kim1 realized some success in mitigating this tendency by opting for the term ‘foci’ (plural of ‘focus’) over terms associated with opposition or polarity. ‘Foci’ denotes particular points or aspects of a larger reality, and unlike ‘opposite’ and ‘pole,’ ‘focus’ is not defined as (hence confined to) ‘one of two’ but as ‘one of any-multiple.’ In sum, ‘foci’ more accurately describes nondual aspects or elements than ‘opposite’ or ‘pole,’ and is thus less prone to misunderstanding.

    While all aspects of Zen cosmology need to be understood in light of the reason (dori) of nonduality, certain notions warrant special attention due to their propensity for misunderstanding or to the nature of the consequences of a particular misunderstanding.2 Of all distortions concerning nonduality, the antithetical polarization of ‘duality’ and ‘nonduality’ is the most common and most pernicious. This antithetical polarization results from mistaking coessential foci of nonduality (i.e. nonduality/duality) as independent entities (or unrealities), and thereby seeing them as two distinct, exclusive positions within the milieu of Zen doctrine and methodology. Such distortions can, and often do, result from misunderstanding ‘duality’ as ‘dualism,’ and or result in identifying ‘duality’ with ‘dualism.’ [To clarify the distinction between them, then]

    ‘Dualism’ is a view that presupposes the existence of independent realities (e.g. ‘objective reality’ existing independent of ‘subjective reality,’ ‘mind’ existing independent of ‘matter,’ etc.)

    ‘Duality’ is the foci of the ‘nonduality/duality’ unity that is exemplified as the inherent diversity of reality.

    Certain implications of great significance that are revealed in light of this understanding of nonduality include:

    1. The Uiversal Nature of Nonduality

    1. ‘Nonduality’ is a universal quality of reality.
    2. ‘Nonduality’ and ‘duality’ are coessential foci; nonduality and duality are nondual, interdependent; each presupposes the other.
    3. ‘Duality’ is the foci of nonduality (nonduality/duality) experienced as, hence existent as, the differentiation of reality.
    4. ‘Nonduality’ is the foci of nonduality experienced/existent as the unity of reality.
    5. Both (all) foci of any nondual pair (multiple) are equal in actuality, significance, and value.

    2. The Nonduality of Enlightenment and Delusion3

    1. Enlightenment and Delusion are nondual, thus equal in actuality, significance, and value.
    2. Enlightenment is only and always realized within and through delusion; delusion is only and always realized within and through enlightenment.

    3. The Nature and Dynamics of Enlightenment and Delusion4

    1. Enlightenment is the experiential verification of reality, the normal sentient capacity that is genjokoan (‘the actualization of the universe’).
    2. Delusion is the experientially verifiable existential quality of reality that enables experiential verification (i.e. genjokoan).
    3. With the experiential verification of reality (enlightenment) sentient beings see (experience, know) their true nature (their unborn/imperishable identity in/as the universe).
    4. In seeing their identity in/as the universe, sentient beings see enlightenment/delusion is infinite and eternal.

    5. Dharmas: The Fundamental Constituents of Reality

    1. Dharmas are the fundamental constituents of reality, the ultimate/primordial fabric (ontology) of existence-time (uji), the essence and form of self and not-self.5
    2. The experiential verification of reality (enlightenment) is the experiential verification of dharmas.
    3. Apart from dharmas nothing exists and nothing is experienced.
    4. The myriad dharmas (i.e. all dharmas) constitute the totality of reality.
    5. A dharma is a particular instance of reality.
    6. A dharma is a phenomenon in and of existence-time (uji); all dharmas possess/display spatial-temporal (phenomenal) form.
    7. The appearance of a dharma (i.e. the form in which it is experienced) and the reality of a dharma (its existential essence, or true nature) are nondual.6
    8. Dharmas are the content (ontology) and the means of experience (epistemology); dharmas are ‘what’ are experienced, and dharmas are ‘how’ experience occurs.7
    9. Dharmas are autochthonous; dharmas originate/inhabit (appear/exist) at/as the location-time (uji) they are experienced; dharmas are identical to the location-time (dharma-position) of their appearance (in/as experience).
    10. Dharmas are empty (sunya); void of independent existence; the helpful formula is: dharmas are empty (sunya), emptiness (sunyata) is dharmas, therefore, dharmas are dharmas, emptiness is emptiness.
    11. Dharmas are interdependent;8 each dharma and all dharmas exist at/as each location-time and all location-times.

    6. The Universal Normality of Dharmas9

    1. That each and all dharmas are ‘reality as it is’ demonstrates the universal normality of dharmas.10
    2. The recognition of the universal normality of dharmas is the basis of Zen’s affirmation of the universal accessibility to enlightenment (i.e. the intrinsic Buddhahood of all sentient beings).
    3. The recognition of the universal normality of dharmas is the basis of Zen’s affirmation of language (specifically, mythopoeism11 ) – as the vehicle of Dharma-transmission.12

    7. Dharmas: The Constituents of Existence and Experience

    1. Existence (existence-time, ontology) is dharmas.13
    2. Experience (experienced/experiencer, epistemology) is dharmas.14
    3. Existence and experience are nondual.
    4. Zen cosmology does not affirm, deny, or otherwise concern itself with the existence or non-existence of hypothetical realities independent of or transcendent to sentient experience.15

    8. Consciousness is Dharmas16

    1. The true nature (ontology) of consciousness (epistemology) is dharmas.17
    2. The true nature of dharmas is consciousness.18
    3. The totality of existence-time (i.e. the myriad dharmas/the one universe) is manifest as/of consciousness/dharmas.


    1 See Hee-Jin Kim, Dogen on Meditation and Thinking
    2 Nondual foci frequently confused or distorted include:
    atman/anatman (self/no-self)
    ordinary (unenlightened) beings/Buddhas
    expressible/inexpressible (‘inside words and letters’/‘outside words and letters’)
    acquired enlightenment/original enlightenment (gradual cultivation/sudden awakening)
    3 i.e. ‘nonduality’ is nonduality/duality, ‘duality’ is duality/nonduality.
    4 Here the terms ‘enlightenment’ and ‘delusion’ are used in the context specific to the nondual foci of ‘enlightenment/delusion.’ Thus ‘enlightenment’ is ‘great enlightenment’ (daigo) and ‘delusion’ is ‘great delusion’ (daimei). For a good overview of the significant factors of nonduality specific to delusion and enlightenment in Dogen’s vision of Zen see Hee-Jin Kim, Dogen on Meditation and Thinking, pp. 1-20
    5 While accounts of Zen commonly portray emptiness (sunyata) as the fundamental essence of reality, the notion of emptiness presupposes a prior recognition of dharmas (i.e. thus dharmas, not emptiness, are primary and primordial). Indeed, the very reason and value of the notion of emptiness exists in/as its capacity to adequately account for the experience/existence of dharmas. It is worth noticing that the same reasoning applies to the Zen/Buddhist notion of ‘no-self’ or ‘anatman’; the notion of no-self presupposes a prior recognition of self; the reason and value of no-self exists in/as its capacity to adequately account for the experience/existence of self.
    6 ‘Appearance’ and ‘form’ denote the ‘total appearance’ of dharmas experienced by sentient beings (i.e. the total influence of dharmas on human experience), thus is not confined to visual experience, but applies to every mode in which dharmas are present, consciously and unconsciously, in/as/to human experience; sight, sound, taste, smell, tactile sensation, thought – the reality [ontological existence] of a dharma and the experience of a dharma are nondual.
    As phenomenal forms, dharmas can generally be understood as appearing/manifesting as one or more of the six ‘objects of consciousness’ – sights, sounds, tastes, smells, tactile sensations, and thoughts – recognized in traditional Buddhist notions of sensation, perception, mental formulation, and consciousness.
    7 The existence of each dharma is dependent on the existence of ‘all dharmas’ [the totality of all dharmas] and the existence of ‘each other dharma’ [each particular dharma ‘other than’ it]; all dharmas are dependent on each dharma).
    9 The ‘universal normality of dharmas’ means that all dharmas are normal as they are. ‘As they are’ means the (ontological) true nature of dharmas – the real reality of dharmas that Buddhism calls ‘thusness’ (immo or tathata).
    10 That the normality of dharmas is ‘universal’ means that all dharmas are normal, and that the particular normality (or thusness) of any individual dharma is the same for/to all individual beings. For example, the normality of a particular tree experienced by a particular individual being is the same for/to all particular beings. The dharma realized by/as one being’s experience of/as a particular dharma at a particular place-time is what it is, as it is, in the totality of existence-time. Thus, while Zen agrees with Blake that ‘A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees’ (Marriage of Heaven and Hell), for Zen the fool’s tree is as actual, significant, and valuable as the wise man’s tree. The same reasoning (dori) applies to all dharmas and all beings.
    11 ‘Mythopoeism’ is the noun form of ‘mythopoeic’ (coined in the mid 1800s by combining ‘mythos’ and ‘poetic’): pertaining to the making of myths; causing, producing, or giving rise to myths; the source of myths, mythos, etc. In common usage (primarily in religious studies and literary criticism) ‘mythopoeic’ differentiates visionary, figurative, imagistic, or metaphorical expression (i.e. mythos; mythical language and works, mythic things, beings, and events) from ordinary narrative accounts or literal descriptions (e.g. technical, historical, and biographical explanations, reports, records, etc.).
    12 ‘Dharma-transmission’ is the communication of enlightened wisdom by ‘Buddha alone together with Buddha,’ and should not be confused with contemporary ceremonies (also called ‘Dharma-transmission’) certifying new ‘Zen teachers’ as ‘Dharma-heirs’ by formally acknowledging their views (understanding) as conforming to the standards of a specific lineage, sect, or individual.
    13 The self (‘I’, ‘me’) and the world (‘other than I’, ‘not me’) have been identified with dharmas since the earliest days of Buddhism. Buddhist expressions on the nature of this identification has been continuously elaborated, developed, and refined for millennia. The terms, details, and emphasis of Buddhist expressions on the identification of dharmas with self/other vary, but the fundamental tenet stands – self/other is constituted of and actualized by dharmas; dharmas are what self/other is and the means whereby self/other manifests.
    14 In Zen cosmology ‘existence’ is synonymous with ‘time’ and ‘existence-time,’ and is constituted of dharmas. Here the significance of ‘existence’ (ontology) is expanded by noting its nondual unity with ‘experience.’ This sheds light on the essential significance of experience; the actual existence (ontology) of both subjectivity and objectivity is intrinsically dependent on, thus constituted of experience (epistemology). The existence of a ‘self’ (subjective experiencer) and the existence of an ‘other than self’ (experienced object) are coessential foci in and of each and all actual instances of experience.
    According to Zen doctrine anyone can verify the nondual unity of existence and experience. By focusing attention on one’s own actual experience here-now it becomes self-evident that all experience is constituted of both an (existent) experiencer and an experienced (existent) – never of anything else, and never of one without the other. Thus it is self-evident that existence is experience, and experience is existence, therefore, existence is (truly) existence, and experience is experience.
    15 While Zen does not deny the existence of realities transcendent to human experiential capacities (perhaps undetectable universes do exist), it does discourage futile activity and disparages views that presuppose abstract speculation to be more reliable than experiential evidence. The reason for Zen’s stance is practical; a reality that can be experienced (i.e. the self/world) is more likely to be experienced than a reality that cannot be experienced.
    16 The particular significance of ‘consciousness’ herein is harmonious with the term for consciousness identified in Sanskrit as ‘vijnana.’ Vijnana, like many Buddhist terms, has a great variety of possible meanings (e.g. the fifth of the five skandhas, the third of the twelve links of causation, etc.). In the context of ‘objects of consciousness,’ vijnana identifies the (sixth) ‘sense organ’ associated with ‘objects of mind consciousness’ – but vijnana also identifies the ‘consciousness’ associated with the other five types of objects (i.e. sights, sounds, tastes, smells, tactile sensations). Therefore, it should be noted that in the former case (i.e. as a ‘sense organ’) vijnana is specific to that role, hence of equal status with the other five sense organs; while in the latter case (i.e. as a ‘shared’ type of ‘consciousness’) vijnana is more general. Here I attempt to distinguish this specific sense from the general by identifying ‘vijnana’ as ‘mind’ when speaking of it as a sense organ. For example, when discussing the ‘six modes of consciousness,’ I write ‘mind consciousness,’ rather than ‘consciousness-consciousness.’ This is not crucial to understanding, and is noted only for the sake of thoroughness.
    17 To exist (i.e. to be a dharma) is to be (subjectively) experienced; to be experienced is to exist. Existence and experience are nondual spatial-temporal appearances/manifestations in/of reality (the universe, true nature, or Buddha-nature). Hence, all dharmas necessarily appear (manifest) nondually with and as particular instances of the consciousness (interdependently inclusive of a sense field, sense faculty, and sense organ) of particular sentient beings, at particular places (or spaces) and particular moments of time.
    18 Zen/Buddhist literature often treats of consciousness in systems that describe it in accordance with a variety of ‘modes,’ in this study I confine my discussion to the most common system of ‘six modes’ of consciousness. The six modes of consciousness are eye-consciousness, ear-consciousness, nose-consciousness, tongue-consciousness, body-consciousness, and mind-consciousness.
    This Buddhist vision of dharmas as objects (things, beings, or events) integral to one or more of ‘six types’ or ‘modes’ of consciousness provides a perspective from which to accurately observe and communicate about the process whereby dharmas manifest experience. The six types of ‘objects of consciousness’ (i.e. dharmas) generally correspond to the five sense faculties common to western systems, plus a ‘sixth sense faculty’ that ‘senses’ (discerns, reads, experiences, cognizes) thought. The ‘sense organ’ associated with this ‘sixth sense’ is identified as ‘mind.’ In harmony with the nonduality of experience and existence (epistemology and ontology), Zen/Buddhism recognizes the six modes of experience as the very process in which, and of which the universe (totality of self/world) is actualized.


  20. Jim Dodds

    And the story keeps on telling itself…

    This concept that the foci is a better way to look at the ultimate reality than strict non-duality inevitably fails because its essence is separation. Separation is false. Yes, we live in an everyday reality that has ups and downs, pleasures and pains, and all the “polarized” and yet complementary dyads anyone could ever imagine. And that is the nature of how things work. All processes proceed from one state to another. But the ultimate reality is not process. There’s nothing going on. Yin and Yang both arise out of the Tao, which is not-two. There is no coming or going. I’m sure Douglas Harding would agree that headlessness is actually just as much looking in as looking out. They’re both the same and the appearance of identity is really only a playful vector and a temporary one in an endless, beginningless glory that has no measure. Every measurement is a lie…
    The one who tries to understand is an illusion, just like the idea that the sun rises. Every dyad is just like a single magnet, with a North and South pole, which are inseparable, not a pair but a process, and not truly even an object. Quantum theory shows us that, in the deepest sense, there are neither objects nor events. Everything blends graciously across space and time, which doesn’t even allow any straight lines, according to Albert Einstein, and what this illusory person continues to maintain is a fictional wall to separate this brain from the knowledge that the illimitable power of the entire cosmos is engaged in creating and destroying itself, over and over and over, and this one is doing its part, which of course is not a part, but the process itself, standing in its own shadow.
    What else has the power to pull off such a trick?

    Jim Dodds


  21. idpnsd

    “There is only one Great Being, which the sages call Brahman, in which all the countless forms of existence reside.” – It seems then the idea of non-duality is a backdoor entry to God. There is no God in Vedas and in Bible. We are all individual souls. We are created by our own individual soul, and there are proofs of it. Vedas also say a soul cannot be broken into pieces. That means my soul cannot be a part of another bigger or higher level soul. Take a look at https://theoryofsouls.wordpress.com/ Reincarnation and soul theory chapter discuss proofs.

    Life is completely guided by destiny. Destiny can be precisely predicted by any high level yogi. We do not have any freewill. There are proofs of destiny also. Therefore there cannot be any role of God in our life. God and destiny are contradictory concepts. Thus God must have a different meaning in all religions. Destiny chapter gives the proofs in the above soul theory book. The book is free.


  22. Jim Dodds

    To speak of non-duality and individual souls in the same breath is oxymoronic. Creation is continuous and though freewill is a misconception, so is destiny. There is one, not two and the circulation of wonder just….circulates!!! 🙂 Many high level yogis are highly misled, still…


  23. idpnsd

    For Jim Dodds On July 23, 2016 at 4:57 pm

    ”non-duality and individual souls in the same breath” – Non-duality is not a correct theory, because it assumes existence of God. Individual soul is correct. There are many proofs of individual soul in the above book.

    “freewill is a misconception” – It is very easy to understand that freewill is an illusion. Have you ever done anything without any reasons? No, never. But reasons come before you take any action. That means your present action is controlled by your past reasons, which in turn indicates that you do not have freewill at present moment. Absence of freewill is destiny. However destiny theory is lot more complex and details are given in the book.

    “Many high level yogis are highly misled,” – There are many examples of high level yogis all over the world. Many scientists have tested some of these yogis. The book has a chapter on such yogis. In fact, Galileo is one such yogi. He is the only scientist who observed the nature. Newton, Heisenberg, Einstein did not, and so they are all wrong. The book has proofs of that also. However, I am talking about yogis who have acquired the power of divine vision. Such yogis probably do not come in 1000 years. But their works are still well known in public literature.


  24. William Talada

    Thanks for the wonderful thoughts, Tim Beringer, and please let us know when your book is published. And thanks, Jim Dodds, for your interesting book link.
    My personal experience of life is that an ego pulls one forward until a point where it begins to hold one back. Switching to enlightenment then pulls one forward until a point where it begins to hold one back.
    These switches from thesis, to antithesis, to synthesis appear to repeat infinitely for me in a fractal nature for all my thoughts. I no longer argue with anyone as I see each step as being very important to the person currently experiencing it. Process is ignored by philosophers and scientists and they wonder why their theories have so many holes in them.
    My only foundation now is to ask myself if the current opportunity will increase my personal responsibility, my circle of love, and my understanding and wisdom. Holons and holarchies as a recursive model has helped me tremendously. And I see everything as infinite and thus ultimately undefinable.

    William Talada, author of A Course In Awakening


  25. Jim Dodds

    IDPNSD, I don’t know who you are, but I see you misinterpreting everything I say. FIRST, non-duality does not assume the existence of God. There is only one, which is ALL. SECOND, while Galileo was a pioneer and his contribution invaluable, Newton, Heisenberg, Einstein all did study nature, at a deeper level than our senses can distinguish. THIRD, so many yogis have been abusers and used the tinkertoy powers they’ve achieved to deceive both themselves and millions of followers. What non-duality assumes is that there is no individual soul, because that is separation, and separation does not exist. And of course all this controversy is immaterial, pun intended 🙂 Rock on!


  26. idpnsd

    For Jim Dodds On July 24, 2016 at 1:42 pm

    “ There is only one, which is ALL.”
    What is that one? What characteristics does it have? Is it not same as God?

    “Newton, Heisenberg, Einstein all did study nature,”
    Are you sure they studied nature? Did you investigate? I give one example to illustrate that Newton ignored nature. And the same can be said about the other two also. Consider Newton’s first law – which says – an object will continue in motion with a constant speed in a straight line. But, we have never seen such an object either on earth or in space, Thus Newton did not observe nature, the way Galileo did.

    “so many yogis have been abusers “
    They are not really yogis. Just like modern scientists are not really scientists.

    “What non-duality assumes is that there is no individual soul…”
    That is a wrong assumption. If you observe nature, like Galileo did, you will find the truth about existence of individual soul. There are many examples in the book.

    “And of course all this controversy is immaterial”
    I think truth must be known and told. And you just did that and helping me to do that too. The objective of reincarnation is not only to obey the destiny, but also to find the truth for liberation, which is to become a high level yogi.


  27. idpnsd

    For Jim Dodds On July 24, 2016 at 8:05 pm

    “there is no objective…there is just this…and Thou Art That”

    I do not know about – “Thou Art That”. I think that is related to God. I know God is not there in Vedas and also in Bible. But religions have God, including Christianity and Hinduism.

    “There is no objective” – yes, in one sense that is correct too. Because we are controlled by destiny, and as I have said before, life can be precisely predictable, even for all future incarnations. If something is defined already for eternity, then there cannot be any objective. I agree with you. I have mentioned that in the book also. But…


  28. idpnsd

    For jbeavinsingamiracle On July 24, 2016 at 8:56 pm

    I agree with you, John Beavin, that “they are mutually exclusive concepts.”

    It appears, according this article and some conversations with Jim Dodds in this chain, that non-duality is related to God. But in Vedas, and also in Bible, there is no God.

    The fact that all humans are different, indicates that individual souls exist and are independent. And also the fact that destiny can be precisely predicted, even across reincarnations, indicates God does not have any role in our lives.

    Below are some examples of individual soul case from public literature. References can be found in the book mentioned before at https://theoryofsouls.wordpress.com/

    (1) A yogi discards his old body and picks up another dead young body and then continues to live in that young body (2) Two young boys die at same time in nearby towns. One body was not reparable, that soul continues to live in the other body. (3) Many yogis cast off their bodies at their will at the destined time after informing their disciples. (4) A baby is born with bullet wounds outside and inside the body, doctors verify after surgery and by comparing with the autopsy record of previous life body.


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