Oneness. The awareness of non-duality. Unity. Wholeness. Merging with the universe.
There are many names for a single phenomenon. If you have ever read any spiritual literature or practiced a spiritual activity, you must have heard these terms before.
But what do they actually mean? To the average person, their meaning can be confusing and complex. It all seems too vague and abstract, and some might even think it’s just a scam, because it is so hard to understand. But the truth is, that it is all true, and it is quite a simple concept.
Let’s explore it in more detail.
Oneness Meaning (What is Wholeness?)
Oneness or Wholeness refers to a transcendent feeling of becoming one with the universe. It refers to the understanding that all living beings are an extension of us.
Oneness is an experience that is completely transcendent.
When you experience Oneness, you feel connected to everything in the universe and in existence on every level. In other words, it simply means that you feel like you are at one with all the things in the universe, because of the awareness and understanding that ultimately we are all one or whole. Our understanding and experiences are all manifestations of the same consciousness, and we are meant to abandon individualism and materialism for the greater good.
Oneness offers a spiritual way of being happy and living a quality life. It is the basic principle behind all spiritual traditions and it can make a radical difference to the fabric of our society. Also, it teaches us to work in cooperation with others and focus on the health of the whole system as its goal, instead of individual desires.
It should be noted that the word Wholeness is often used interchangeably with Oneness. Wholeness refers to the feeling of fullness, satisfaction, completion, and vastness that can only come from being your true self. Wholeness refers to experiencing and embodying your true nature.
Oneness and Wholeness are ultimately the same things. The names may be different in different cultures and rituals, but the concept behind both these practices is the same. In other words, both Oneness and Wholeness are meant to extend our experience beyond our limited personalities, otherwise known as egos.
The Philosophy Behind Oneness
Different religions have different beliefs about the philosophy of Oneness, but most of them are based on the idea that all human beings and life on earth have a common origin. Despite the difference in names and terminology, the concept of Oneness and Wholeness percolates through all cultures and societies.
For example, Christianity says that all of us come from God and are the children of God. If we function keeping this in mind, we would be less likely to hurt other people.
Similarly, many Eastern cultures and traditions also have their own ideas and philosophies related to the concept of common being and common nature. Here are some examples of these ideas:
- According to Buddhism, Oneness or Wholeness is the same as interdependence of all living beings on each other.
- Zen philosophy states that one should move away from individualism and detach from their own body and mind so that they can see and live the big mind also known as Daishin.
- According to yoga, nonviolence for ahimsa towards fellow human beings is at the core of the yogic way of living.
- According to Advaita Vedanta, the entire universe is made of pure consciousness. Therefore, all the substances, living beings, and nature itself are the same and the separation between them is just a mistake of our perspective.
- According to Taoism, one should move beyond the attachment they have to themselves and live in harmony with the Tao.
- According to Mahayana Buddhism, the ideal of Bodhisattva is to attain compassion towards fellow human beings.
All these ideas don’t use Oneness or Wholeness as a term, but it is clear that they honor the belief that one can only fully absorb the truth if they live according to the principles of Oneness.
Oneness in the Modern World
In the modern world, people have claimed that they experience Oneness when they use psychedelics or during Tantric rituals. Many people have touted DMT as the God molecule, because there are people who have claimed experiencing Oneness of all things when they are on it.
The bottom line is that the concept of Oneness takes different forms and shapes for different people, but ultimately it all boils down to the belief that yourself and your wellbeing is larger than the physical boundaries of your body and brain.
Even if the spiritual practices and tantric rituals are not something that you believe in, you will see that the concept of Oneness is beneficial even from a rational point of view. It can be a powerful tool for transforming ourselves and promoting goodness and positivity in the world.
Oneness and The Optical Delusion of Consciousness
In his essay, The World as I See It, Albert Einstein talked about the optical delusion of consciousness.
He believed that a human being is part of the whole universe, a part that is limited according to the constraints of time and space. We experience our thoughts, feelings, and our whole life as something separated from the rest. This is simply an optical illusion.
He added that as humans, our task must be to be free of this illusion, and to not restrict our compassion to just a few people around us. We should embrace all the living beings and the entirety of nature and creation. Further, he stated that the true value of a human being lies in how much he has managed to liberate himself.
This theory further presents evidence for the concept of Oneness from one of the most celebrated scientists of our time.
Why Do We Need Oneness?
Oneness spirituality has the potential to stop injustice, abuse, violence, environmental damage, and exploitation. When you understand and expand your experience to the suffering of others, it will be impossible to condone or participate in violent actions that harm others.
Just like it does not make sense for one part of the body to hurt the other, or for your blood vessels to destroy your own bones, Oneness does not allow us to hurt other people. When we experience Oneness with all forms of life, we will realize that destroying others is the same as destroying our own self.
Oneness can help improve the professional, political, and social environment of the world. It can help us become a more enlightened society where human beings realize that we are all cells of a larger organism.
All these philosophies may sound naive and idealistic, and it may seem like this utopia will never be achieved. That is probably true – for there will always be disturbing and violent elements that will want to disturb the fabric of the society. But that does not mean that those of us who can understand Oneness should not practice it in our lives.
We may not be able to change the entire world with our actions, but if any small progress in this direction can help even one person, we have made the world a little bit better.
We need Oneness because exaggerated individualism and materialism have led to people becoming selfish and pursuing their own desires, without any regard for others. Late-stage capitalism has resulted in conflict, suffering, and damage to the planet. Not to mention the fact that this type of thinking is not beneficial even for people’s own happiness.
Why is it So Hard to Experience Oneness and Wholeness?
In simple words, it is obvious that it is difficult for us to experience Oneness and Wholeness. This is because our brains are not wired to let that happen.
Difficulty in combining the world and the self
Our mental consciousness and brain setup is enough to help us understand, imagine, plan, and even create life. It is extremely difficult for us to confluence ideas, beliefs, thoughts, and concepts according to the principle of Oneness. The biological chemistry of our brains, along with the societal setup prevents that from happening.
And because our life is so fragmented, the Oneness experience is extremely difficult to perceive. Think of it like looking at the world through broken glasses. We find the reality of the world as a separate, isolated thing. Unless and until you take off those glasses, you will always see yourself as isolated from the rest of life.
Limited mental identity
The problem also lies in the fact that we have forgotten that we are wearing cracked glasses. Most human beings are living their life believing that their thoughts are what make them. Their limited mental identity is the only thing they can experience, according to them. In reality it is a self-imposed prison. We have been conditioned to live in a world that is dominated by our mind.
We are like the fish that do not understand the concept of water, because they cannot see it. In the end, we have lost touch with our true nature. There is a popular belief now that Oneness and Wholeness are special experiences. That they are reserved for Yogis and Tantrik spiritual men. But the truth is that these are the most natural and normal state of being.
Lack of self acceptance
There is an additional reason why it is difficult to experience Oneness. In order to live life normally, our minds are fragmented and have segregated things into good and bad. As a result, our entire lives are split into two and this causes suffering.
We grow up with the belief that there are good parts of us and bad parts of us. And we cannot accept the bad parts. We repress them and deny them. We perceive ourselves in a fragmented way. This makes it difficult for us to experience Oneness.
What Happens When We Start To Perceive Ourselves in A Fragmented Way?
The short answer is that we feel incomplete, and that we are not good enough.
When we live in a fragmented way, our minds perceive ourselves as if we are not good enough. This results in loneliness, depression, anxiety, and insecurities. In extreme cases, it can also lead to suicides. Fragmented perceptions can also result in our essence being diluted. We think we are being fake and inauthentic and we feel empty all the time.
And it is evident that this is the current state of the world. Most of us are struggling with loving and embracing our true self on a consistent basis. But we have to ask ourselves how we can do that when we love only some parts of us and suppress the others. This is why integration, Wholeness, and Oneness are important.
Oneness is the opposite of this sort of fragmentation. It unites all the parts of our self that we may not have accepted for years or even decades. This integration of the bad with the good is the foundational basis of Wholeness. It should also be noted that this integration is important to achieve Wholeness. But the latter concept has a wider umbrella than just integration.
Which brings me to my next point. Another aspect of Oneness is enlightenment.
Oneness and Enlightenment
Like Oneness and Wholeness, enlightenment is a term that is used extensively in the spiritual and philosophical literature. The meaning of this term is also not exactly clear or defined. But in my opinion, it is not so different from Wholeness or Oneness. Having said that, the term enlightenment is definitely much more loaded than the other two.
Body vs Mind
The truth is that as human beings, our existence can only be fully complete when we embrace both the body and mind aspects of spirituality. Oneness and Wholeness can help us achieve that. Because they are focused on the body, mind, and spirit, along with all other parts of ourselves. On the other hand, enlightenment is one-sided. Because it is much more cerebral and focused on the mental aspects of spiritualism.
While enlightenment bypasses anything that may be focused on the bodily aspects of spirituality, Wholeness, and Oneness embrace all these aspects. Anything that is too raw and real is generally is skipped over by enlightenment, while that is not the case with Oneness.
Ascending vs Descending journey
Moreover, enlightenment focuses on the ascending journey of the human mind. It emphasizes the love and light that we need to spread among our fellow human beings and in our own lives. And while that is an extremely important aspect of existence, we also need to embrace the descending journey of the human mind.
Wholeness inspires us to dive deep into the darkest parts of our mind and do some soul searching. It helps us embrace the dirt and grit of being human, and find those parts of us that have been separated from the rest. All the negative thoughts that come through our mind, and the dark experiences that we have had, are embraced by Oneness, while the same cannot be said about enlightenment.
And the truth is that if we avoid this dirty and dark side of us, we cannot achieve the love and light side of enlightenment. It would be superficial with no actual depths to it. The holistic and realistic experience of being human can only be achieved through Oneness and Wholeness.
The Practice of Oneness
Oneness is a laborious process that one has to pursue their entire life. Even yogis and monks have to meditate for years and years before they can get a glimpse of this spiritual experience, and for a normal human being to experience, it will take a lot of hard work and perseverance.
Therefore, we need to respect the commitment and intensity that is needed to follow this path. However, this does not mean that you will never be able to attain it. We may never get to fully experience it in all its gloriousness, but we can certainly try to implement it in our lives in whatever way possible.
But before you take a deep into practicing Oneness, you need to keep in mind that there are two aspects to this concept:
1. Experience of the self
Reading about Oneness, reflecting on its concepts, and listening to the related teachings on the subject can help quite a lot. But the truth is that to understand this concept on a deeper level, you need to commit to spiritual practice, especially in the form of meditation. This can help you move your identity from your ego to the higher consciousness.
When we can experience the self, we can access pure awareness which is known locally and a grounded state of existence. The journey between nonlocal awareness and the general consciousness in everyday life brings us closer to Oneness. It also opens doors for the integration of this concept into our everyday life and accepting the darker sides of our being. All of this is necessary to achieve Oneness, as we discussed in the previous sections.
Once your experience extends to the deep states of meditation, you will start understanding and experiencing Oneness with other beings on the planet and the planet itself. You will then be able to integrate this wisdom into your everyday life. Which brings us to the next part.
2. Oneness in action
This means that one should implement the principles of Oneness in their daily actions. According to Buddhism, there are five of these principles.
- One should not cause harm to another being
- One should not take what is not given to them
- No one should speak something that is not true
- One should not engage in sexual misconduct that creates suffering
- One should not use intoxicating materials
Reading these principles makes it clear that the principal concepts of Oneness are quite similar to all that is taught in different religions. It does not only extend to preserving the self, but also preventing harm to others. For instance, some people may argue that using intoxicating materials only harms the self. But the truth is that it makes one Less mindful of their actions, and this can make them more prone to harming others.
Following these precepts may seem idealistic, and in the current world, it may not even be possible to do it all the time. But if we commit ourselves to this cause and try to implement them wherever possible, there will be a shift in the world around us. We may not be able to eradicate suffering completely, but we will be able to limit it.
One thing that we need to remember while practicing Oneness is balance. We should not forget that while we are a part of a big higher consciousness, we also have a duty towards ourselves. When we are committed to being of service to others and not harming others, it also includes taking care of ourselves, our health, and well-being.
The bottom line is that Oneness should be practiced in a way that is beneficial for the individual and society as a whole.
The Benefits of Oneness
Here are some of the major benefits of Oneness:
- Oneness helps us make our actions congruent with the values and ideals that we hold dear. It helps us live a life that is authentic and true to ourselves.
- Oneness promotes involvement in philanthropy and activism. It helps us implement the principles of charity into our everyday actions, making it easier to affect a change in society and the world around us. It is essentially an act of love towards other human beings and helps us contribute towards their welfare in big and small ways.
- Oneness helps us achieve integrity and balance. Using this concept as a guiding tool, we can polish our character in such a way that we can work towards the benefit of society without damaging ourselves.
- Actions that are based on the principles of Oneness are rewarding in the sense that they fill us with happiness and joy, whether or not you get your desired results. Just the act of committing to the effort makes us feel connected to everything and can help heal isolation, loneliness, and helplessness.
- It helps us realize that our actions matter more than perhaps we understand. When you live your life in such a way that you are only concerned with yourself, then you will see that the actions and results can be quite limiting. This is an ancient, satisfactory way of living – when you take other human beings into your close circle, you will see the impact of your actions increase tenfold.
- Living this way means you will also be receiving the contributions of the whole world. This creates a sense of fulfillment that is not possible through actions based on individualism.
How To Experience Oneness and Wholeness
Experiencing Oneness is not a quick and easy thing. There is no such thing as five steps that can help you achieve Oneness. The tools and practices that are recommended here are not going to help you attain the instant feeling of bliss that Oneness promises.
To that end, here are some ways which can help you experience Oneness to a certain degree:
Meditation can give you direct exposure to the Oneness that resides deep within us, because it allows us to transcend the state of thinking and being shut in our minds.
There are many types of meditation practices available these days, and not all of them are focused on achieving Oneness. Some of them are focused on healing, relaxation, etc. To bring your mind and awareness closer to the concept of Oneness, you can commit to the ancient techniques of Vipassana and Anapanasati.
A lot of spiritual experiences can be glimpsed only through mindfulness. Although this practice has become quite mainstreamed, it does not mean that there is no value to it. However, it should be noted that most of the mainstream mindfulness practices are quite diluted.
Mindfulness which means paying attention to the present moment can help you in sharpening your ability to recognize your positive as well as negative qualities. This awareness forms the foundational basis of Oneness.
3. Spending time in nature
Spending time surrounded by natural beauty is a great way to experience Oneness with creation and all of nature. Being around trees and birds is believed to be one of the easiest ways of becoming one with everything around you, even if it is a temporary feeling.
You have to train yourself to observe nature as another form of meditation. This can be extremely nourishing to the soul and can fill you with a sense of serenity and Oneness.
4. Working on your psyche for integration
It should also be noted that Oneness is naturally a laborious process. You can get glimpses of it through various strategies, but you need to work hard at your psyche for accepting it fully. This can only be achieved through integration.
Focus on integrating those parts of you that you have been repressed or rejected. Explore them and accept them, no matter whether they are good or bad. You cannot cut a part of you and keep living normally. Find out what is lost within you to maintain balance and get in touch with your inner child again.
This type of practice is slow at achieving Oneness, but it is some of the deepest work you can do and there are no side effects to it. It is also recommended by psychologists to work on your psyche for a healthier mental attitude.
5. Practice self-love and compassion
After the integration of the dirty and ugly parts of our psyche with the rest of our consciousness, we have to take the next step, which is self-love, acceptance, and compassion. Human life brings us too many ups and downs, and as a result, we often experience highs and lows. That is why we often have an extremely complex relationship with ourselves, but if we develop the ability to manage our highs and lows with equal compassion, we learn how to love ourselves without any caveats.
And when we truly develop the ability to love ourselves with all our bad parts, we can get free from the boundaries that have been created by the world and by your own mind. Divisions between human beings that are different from us get dissolved. All that remains is Wholeness, Expansiveness, and Oneness.
6. Working within the community
Being part of a healthy community where everyone helps each other can help foster strong principles of Oneness. This gives us the opportunity to serve others, as well as understand our own journey in a deeper manner. It can also help us realize that a single human affects all, indirectly or directly.
Communities help us open up to new and different ideas, dissolve any barriers that exist between us, and expand our horizons. Strong communities can connect us with a stronger sense of Oneness.
7. Being conscious
When we pay attention to our actions, choices, thoughts, emotions, and how we react to the people and situations in our life, we get one step closer to Oneness. What we do directly affects so many other people, whether or not we realize it.
Being conscious is a good starting point for developing a sense of Oneness, because it will help you become more aware of how your actions affect not only your own life, but also of those around you. This will create a sense of belonging and you will realize you are becoming part of something that is bigger than just you.
8. Practicing ancient Indian rituals
There are two parts to this
Whenever you meet someone for the first time, bring your hands together, join them in front of your chest and perform the Indian blessing called Namaste. You can also do this when you are taking leave of someone. It essentially means that you are recognizing the divinity in the other person, as you recognize it in you. i
In other words, when you perform this practice you should think to yourself that you and others belong to the same Oneness. Over time, you will inculcate this principle into your everyday actions, thoughts, and emotions.
Even though Oneness has the potential for all the sounds in the world, in itself, it is silent. It is believed in Hinduism that the entirety of the Universe and creation has emerged from the silence of Oneness, and the first sound or vibration that emerged from this silence is Om.
In fact, this vibration can be found in all the sounds and vibrations of our universe. Chanting Om can draw awareness back to the moment when creation first came into existence, the moment of Oneness of all living beings.
9. See the Oneness in you and others
When you look into the mirror the next time, stop for a few minutes, and look into your own eyes. Say out loud or silently to yourself, “Aham Brahmasmi.” In Sanskrit, this means that I am the universe or I am the totality. You can also say it in English. This will help your soul reflect back to itself and remind you of the Oneness of all living beings. You can practice this at least once every day to inculcate the concept of Oneness in your life.
And in a similar way, you can also start looking at Oneness in the living beings around you. According to Bhagavad Gita, God or Oneness lies in everyone. Whenever a person experiences life or something through their senses, they should remind themselves that it is all part of the same Oneness. This will help them recognize the world as no more than a reflection of themselves.
It seems simple enough, but the truth is that love is the greatest and most powerful force in the entire universe. When you are in love, you become one with the object of your love. This is the essence of Oneness or Wholeness. In other words, if you live your life with love, you will be able to recognize that you are the universe.
Oneness resides inside you and everything is you. To explain the connection between love and Oneness, Sufi wrote:
“The lover asked his beloved, do you love yourself more than you love me? The beloved replied, I have died to myself but I live for thee.”
You can learn more about Oneness here:
Here are some quotes that demonstrate the concept of Oneness and what it means:
1. “Oneness is the source of love. Real love is the One celebrating itself as two.”– Ram Das
2. “The ignorant man (engrossed in duality) desires material things; the intelligent man (seeker on the path) desires enlightenment; but the wise man (knower of Oneness) just loves and receives everything.”– Vedanta
3. “It’s only in our minds that we are separate from the rest of the world.”– Gay Luce
4. “Ye are all leaves of one tree and the fruits of one branch.”– Bahá’u’lláh
5. “All know that the drop merges into the ocean, but few know that the ocean merges into the drop.”– Kabir
6. “The fundamental delusion of humanity is to suppose that I am here and you are out there.”– Yatsutani Roshi
7. “Praying without ceasing is not ritualized, nor are there even words. It is a constant state of awareness of oneness with God.”– Peace Pilgrim
8. “I came to a clear internal realization that there was nothing I could do as a separated self that would ever fulfill me.”– Barbara Marx Hubbard
9. “To discover joy is to return to a state of oneness with the universe.”– Peggy Jenkins
10. “If we could but recognize our common humanity, that we do belong together, that our destinies are bound up in one another’s, that we can be free only together, that we can be human only together, then a glorious world would come into being where all of us lived harmoniously together as members of one family, the human family.”– Desmond Tutu
The bottom line is that we can think of Oneness as a spiritual experience, or simply a way of expanding our compassion to other living beings. But no matter what our beliefs are, it is indeed one of the best ways to bring positivity, warmth, and togetherness in a world that may otherwise seem too cruel and opportunistic.
And personal beliefs about spirituality aside, that is something we can all get behind, if not for anyone else’s sake, at least for our own.
Namrata is a Doctor i.e. dentist turned writer and a clinical researcher. Eager to learn about anything and everything, she is what you would call a jack of all trades and master of none. With a zeal for reading novels, books, and anything she could get her hands on ever since she was little, she embarked into a writing career purely out of luck. After indulging in a freelancing career for nearly two years, she can now write on anything - from dentistry to decor, travel to technology, medicine to management - but the psychology remains her first love. Having dealt with mental health issues in the past, she hopes to raise awareness for the same and help people with her work in association with The MindFool team