The human mind sees, hears, tastes, and feels a world of duality. The mind just naturally has this understanding that there is “me” and there is the “world”. This is the notion of duality. We are born with this philosophy. It is not something any of us need to be taught. It is so obvious to us that to even mention it seems silly and perhaps insane.
Yet there is a different view held by mystics. The mystic tells us that “everything is One”. This mystical view is called the philosophy of “non-dualism”. That philosophy states that the concept of “me” and then a separate “world” is not correct. It says that the world of duality that we see is in fact not “real”. To the mystic “the real” is defined as “that which never changes”. And given that every single thing in the world is constantly undergoing change, the world cannot therefore be real. But the mystic does not speak from mere theory, rather she experience directly this never changing Oneness—this Existence, Knowledge and Bliss absolute.
This philosophy of non-dualism is obviously at odds with our daily experience. But the mystic insists that though our experience is one of dualism, that dualism only "seems real". To be like the mystic and have the experience of Oneness while still aware of world is to become Awakened or Self-realized.
And the mystic claims that each of us is capable of this Self-realization, of knowing this truth that is already within us, indeed IS our true nature. In this experience is said to be complete cessation of all desire and a total feeling of contentment and bliss.
But Non-Dualism is not a philosophy in the sense of being a university course. Getting a high mark in the study of the history of non-dualism does absolutely nothing in regard to realizing your true nature. Non-Dualism is not a course of study but a course in practical experience.
This practice of Non-Dualism might be called the “practice of the truth” in that the would-be mystic is required, as often as possible, to question her current notions of reality and through that process ultimately know the truth directly. She starts by accepting without any doubt that there has been at least one teacher who has experienced this Truth, this Oneness. Once convinced of this, she then knows that it is possible for her to also know this Truth.
Her chosen teacher may either be someone from the past or a currently living teacher. It is through the constant practice of the instructions of such a teacher that she becomes a mystic. In my own case, this took over thirty years because my “ignorance”—my attachment to seeming duality—was so great. Now, I hope to help others become Awakened in a much, much, shorter time.
Some people think that “non-dualism” is the same as Advaita Vedanta. It is not. Although Advaita Vedanta carries the same message, that message is wrapped in a covering of Hindu culture and thought. Whereas Non-Dualism is that same core teaching but devoid of that Indian cultural covering. Non-Dualism is our Western approach that takes the essential teaching of Advaita Vedanta but drops virtually all Sanskrit words, abandons all discrimination against women, and rejects any notion of inherited class restrictions (caste). Non-dualism also tosses aside the notion that the Truth is only available to those living a monastic life-style. This Western approach allows for, and indeed encourages, active participation in the world including a career, sex, marriage, and children.
In summary, Non-Dualism is a philosophy and practice that culminates in a person knowing the joy and bliss of Oneness while still participating fully in the world that—as my first teachers said—is “real enough”.
Michael Prayag, Awareness Guide
Author Bio :
Michael Prayag, Awareness Guide.