Spirituality Magazine

Nonduality – What’s Wrong with a Little Duality?

By Hanumandass @HanumanDass

Often when we say that we are “awakened” to the reality of nonduality we try to separate ourselves from the dual world. We may tell everyone it’s all One but if someone challenges us with the reality of the apparent world we can become offended. I have fell pray to this at times, so in that spirit I want to share some thoughts on this confusion.

The fact is that the sudden flash of insight brought on by seeing the oneness of all things drives us to reject what appears differentiated. The absoluteness of Awareness stands as it were above any distinction that seems to appear in experience. After awakening we walk around for a time with our “head in the clouds”.

The truth of the matter is that we don’t lose sight of the relative world after awakening. It is still there, it is nothing other than the oneness of Awareness. The adjustment happens in the mind where ignorance clouds discrimination, not in the sensory world of matter. The mind puts all the sensory data together into a mental picture which reflects the minds understanding, dual or nondual.

“Free your mind and your ass will follow.” The gross world doesn’t have to change so much as the subtle orientation of the mind must. As Awareness we are beyond both body and mind

To be clear the world goes nowhere when you awaken. Usually, as is the case with me, awakening tends to be largely an experience. Any experience is not liberation or enlightenment. It may be very powerful and inspiring, and we need these experiences along the way, but they are not nondual Awareness. We are of course already Awareness, so having an experience of it isn’t enough.

The pinnacle of Awareness is the union of Being and Knowing. Realization is the merging of these two fundamental aspects of experience. When we see that “I am”, that I know that I exist and everything hinges on that, there is a possibility of transcending experience itself.

Your being or beingness is your sense of existence. Before you say anything you assume the reality of your existence. Similarly you know this existence, so knowing or knowingness is in turn intrinsic in your being. The fundamental nature of Being is knowledge of that beingness. What we call in relative terms consciousness, I am conscious of my existence here and now.

Awareness on the other hand is absolute Beingness and absolute knowingness. These two are one. The Vedantists say Brahman (Being-Awareness-Bliss) is One without a second. Awakening or realization is the knowledge that beingness and knowingness are one. Conceptually we can infer a lot from this basic premise about reality. But the goal is to go beyond even this foundational dichotomy. Seeing how they are one is light shining through a hole in a dark room.

My point is that when we think we are awakened and continue to function on a “me” and “them” paradigm we are deceiving ourselves. There is no nondual club over against the deluded dual masses. Reality is one, that means there is room for all form…Oneness and multiplicity. The difference between a liberated person and one who’s not is his/her perception of the world. Liberation is beyond mind but does not destroy mind or its faculties.

Awakening and liberation don’t end relational dynamics between people. They still have families, friends, jobs, get hungry, go to the bathroom. The difference is that they aren’t fooled by the whole game. When we say “yea that’s me” and then get offended because someone challenges our conception of Oneness, we know we’re not realized!

I think people tend to be a bit ultra-nondual. It doesn’t matter how realized you are, if you don’t immediately dissolve into the Absolute – body and all – then you’re still going to be around talking, eating, sleeping, etc. Vedanta has a term for this” Prarabda Karma. It’s what plays out the rest of your life after the karma you made in this life is exhausted and you’ve stopped creating any new karma. The momentum of creation brought you into the world and that momentum must exhaust itself. But that’s a story, you may believe it or not, it does seem helpful though.

What’s wrong with a little duality? The multiplicity we meet in the world is a large part of its beauty. The other part being the unity of it all of course. We don’t come to enjoy the ecstasy of nonduality except by passing through the dispersion of the dual. When you see how this object and that object are united you slowly come to see that all is united. You ultimately see that unity itself doesn’t convey the reality of what Is.

Liberation brings a unity in diversity. We interact with the world from the ground of Awareness and from this nonduality we enjoy each other by celebrating manifestation. It’s not that we want to destroy duality. We want to see through the inherent limitations of duality. As long as we treat the relative world as something less than the life of Awareness we will continue to be deluded by separation.

It is not that the apparent world is unreal but that it is given its reality by Absolute Awareness in which all things arise and have their being. Thus we can say that creation is good and that all ground is holy ground. We cherish and care for the world and each other because we are united in the Oneness of the Godhead.

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