We, the human generation, are accustomed to seeing the world through the prism of duality. We often wonder that good can’t exist without bad, god can’t exist without evil, black can’t exist without white, love can’t exist without hate, happiness can’t exist without sadness and so on. It is true that we are habitual of seeing everything in pairs.
The whole this-that perspective of things has taken us far from reality. You must have heard many yogis talking about the higher self and ultimate reality. What is that ultimate reality? It is definitely not duality. In fact, it is the opposite of it, it is nonduality. It is in the nonduality you will find answers to “who you are?”, “why are you?” and “what is your ultimate goal”?
What is Nonduality?
Nonduality is the true essence of our lives. It is a way of life through which everything is considered one consciousness (also called Brahman). It can also be considered the very fabric of our existence.
Nonduality literally means no two. It means everything is one. The true nature of this world is nondual, and not dual. The essential nature of a human being is the nature of its soul which only believes in nonduality and one consciousness. The word nonduality is derived from a Sanskrit word Advaita which means no two. It is from Advaita Vedanta that the concept of nonduality has emerged. In both Hinduism and Buddhism, nonduality is considered as a way of life.
It is not based on any kind of religious principles. Some spiritual traditions, however, are based on the concept of nondualism. The first mention of Advaita was found in the ancient Vedas. It has also been mentioned in Christian Mysticism, Jewish Kabbalah, Kashmir Shaivism, etc. Understanding of nondualism is not very easy, it can get complicated for people who are just starting with spiritual principles.
It requires people to believe that the world they see is illusionary and It is the creation of their minds. Ultimate reality is one. Our soul is the source of all things in the world. And, all things are us. We are all one part of the universe and the whole universe is within us. The concept of oneness is achieved with a lot of hard work and practice because the mind doesn’t let you believe in it easily.
Consider your mind as something that constantly comes in your way to see the ultimate reality. The thoughts created by our mind can be seen as a cloth covering oneness. Nonduality also requires one to believe that your identity is not your body, mind, emotions or thoughts. When people start to distinguish their thoughts from their reality, they begin the spiritual journey. They start to walk on the path of higher self and awakening.
Learnings from Nisargadatta Maharaj
We have seen how nondualists see themselves as one with the universe. For better understanding, we can take the example of a cinema screen. When we go to watch a film, we experience the characters and relate to their emotions. However, we know that’s just because of our imagination or imagination of those who made the film.
What’s real is the screen. That screen is you. That’s your consciousness. The characters running on it and the experiences shown on it should not move you in real life. They should just feel neutral to you. This state is a real awakening. To realize the world is within you is the biggest blessing.
Nisargadatta Maharaj was a teacher of nonduality. He was also a spiritual guru. In his book ‘I Am That’, he wrote about nonduality in length. He has famously said, “The consciousness in you and the consciousness in me, apparently two, really one, seek unity and that is love.” He also said, “To deal with things the knowledge of things is needed. To deal with people, you need insight, sympathy. To deal with yourself, you need nothing. Be what you are, a conscious being and don’t stray away from yourself.”
How to Experience Nonduality?
To experience nonduality, you have to dive deep within yourself and focus on consciousness which is the ultimate truth of you.
If you can silence your mind and control it, then you can easily experience nonduality. Many people attain that silence in various ways. Most popular is of course meditation. When you look within yourself and quiet your mind, you begin to experience what many call consciousness awareness.
2. Concentration and focus
Further, with concentration and focus, one can focus on inner spirit. One can also take the help of a spiritual teacher to gain some direction. Once you learn to connect with your soul, you will realize that everything is one. What you see outside of you is also part of you. Two things that seem different to you are also the same. They are two different sides of the same coin. Their source is one. One can’t exist without another.
3. Feel your body differently
Apart from your mind, your other senses also need attention because they too sometimes make us believe in duality. It is important to remember that when we see, hear and smell, we are experiencing things that are one with our inner self. The source always remains one.
It is important to note that two different looking things share the same source according to nonduality. For instance, our two fingers may look different but their source is our hand.
4 Reasons to Experience Nonduality
To be absolutely untouched by the external events and occurings, and to find peace within, one must experience nonduality.
1. It liberates you
When you truly realize that there is nothing but consciousness out there and you connect with that consciousness, you will see life to be limitless, complete and untouched by the world’s troubles and inhibitions. Such a person enjoys inner peace and doesn’t face emotions overwhelmingly, good or bad.
2. It takes you on the spiritual path and enlightens you
The teachings of Advaita or pure consciousness makes a person awakened and enlightened. Such a person is also spiritual. The most common question that people ask is that if we learn non-duality, will we be able to live a regular life. The answer to this question is yes.
Nonduality doesn’t stop you from living your everyday life but it teaches you to see the world differently which in turn makes you learn how to deal with pain and suffering better.
3. It makes you more kind
Nonduality also requires you to let go of your ego. In spirituality, the word ego holds a different meaning. It actually means that you don’t make an effort to curtail the illusion your mind creates. Letting go of ego makes you kind, compassionate and loving. The true nature of your soul emerges when you let go of ego. The true nature is loving, compassionate, kind and pure.
4. It makes you look within
Nonduality ensures that instead of seeing outside, we first look within ourselves. Most answers lie within us. When we go inwards and try to find the meaning of life, we only gain more enlightenment about life than we already have.
When we know that our consciousness is our experience of the world, we actually tend to find more happiness and satisfaction within ourselves.
Science of Nonduality
As we know, nonduality is a concept that promotes one consciousness. It says that if you treat the world as one big consciousness, you don’t create twos of anything. This is the ultimate awareness. Now scientifically, our view of the world is limited to what our body senses.
All our body parts such as eyes, ears, tongue, etc send signals to the brain and the brain further decodes whatever information sent to it. So, we never really see the world as it is.
We only see the interpretations made by our minds. Thus, it can be said that our experience of the world is one big consciousness. If we begin to have faith in this thought and realize this internally, we would probably stop seeing the world through the prism of duality.
Nondualism is derived from consciousness. Teaching nonduality is difficult but experiencing it on your own is truly a blessing.
Can Nonduality Reduce Our Suffering?
We have to first look at why a human being suffers. Every time when a person doesn’t feel grounded and finds himself or herself swinging in the future or past, they tend to suffer. It is always painful to live in the past or live in anticipation of the future.
The present moment is the only moment that can keep you happy. We have to train ourselves to not get carried away. If we again speak about the ocean and wave analogy, we have to notice that wave is part of the ocean. It can swing as much as it wants, its reality doesn’t change.
Acceptance is the biggest virtue. To live in the present moment, we must accept our reality. Nonduality also requires you to do the same thing. Thus, while living in present, free from suffering and nonduality sound two different concepts but they are actually two sides of the same coin.
When we live a nondual life, we also don’t draw a line between past and present. One main principle of nonduality is to live in the present moment. So it can be said that nonduality does reduce our suffering in many ways. It teaches us to live in the moment.
What to Be Careful Of?
Nonduality can also bring depression and despair. It can make one nihilist. One has to be very careful in taking guidance from someone. One may interpret nonduality as something that asks you to give up on the external world entirely. A proper understanding of nondualism doesn’t let you go astray.
It makes sure that you don’t treat yourself as a separate entity but also, continue to live in your regular life in a much more structured and spiritual manner. Your everyday tasks become easy when you understand nonduality because it gets easy to deal with your own emotions and emotions of others.
Your spirit or consciousness is the only constant. Everything else in life comes and goes but what’s within you never changes. The sooner people start to understand it, the better their life gets. A lot can be said about nonduality but unless you dive deep and focus on your inner self, you won’t be able to really live it.
Everything that we are seeking in the world, is already within us. It seems difficult to live your entire life believing this but it is the ultimate reality. Love, happiness, prosperity, abundance – everything is within you. Take the help of a teacher who can guide you and you can take the journey inwards.
Ankita calls herself a road-child because of her love for road trips and landscapes. A journalist turned digital nomad, she is either telling stories or looking outside the car window aimlessly. She has traveled most of India by road, and encourage other women to take such life-changing journeys. Ankita is also a mental health advocate and a survivor herself. She likes to tell her story through writing and photography, with the aim to change at least some lives.