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Non-Duality Introduction

The following was extracted on Nov 30, 2010, from the explanation of "Nondualism" provided by Most of the writings posted to this website as well as most of the books and tapes referenced and quoted throughout this website are consistent with the below explanation of Nondualism.

The term "nondual" (meaning "not two") can refer to a belief, condition, theory, practice, or quality.

All schools of Buddhism teach No-Self (Pali anatta, Sanskrit anatman). Non-Self in Buddhism is the Non-Duality of Subject and Object, which is very explicitly stated by the Buddha in verses such as "In seeing, there is just seeing. No seer and nothing seen. In hearing, there is just hearing. No hearer and nothing heard." (Bahiya Sutta, Udana 1.10). Non- Duality in Buddhism does not constitute merging with a supreme Brahman, but realising that the duality of a self / subject / agent / watcher / doer in relation to the object / world is an illusion.

A Course in Miracles presents an interpretation of nondualism that recognises only "God" (i.e. absolute reality) as existing in any way, and nothing else existing at all. In a book entitled The Disappearance of the Universe, which explains and elaborates on A Course in Miracles, it says in its second chapter that we "don't even exist in an individual way - not on any level. There is no separated or individual soul.

To the Nondualist, reality is ultimately neither physical nor mental. Instead, it is an ineffable state or realization. This ultimate reality can be called "Spirit" (Sri Aurobindo), "Brahman" (Shankara), "God", "Shunyata" (Emptiness), "The One" (Plotinus), "The Self" (Ramana Maharshi), "The Dao" (Lao Zi), "The Absolute" (Schelling) or simply "The Nondual" (F. H. Bradley). Ram Dass calls it the "third plane" - any phrase will be insufficient, he maintains, so any phrase will do. The theory of Sri Aurobindo has been described as Integral advaita.

Nisargadatta (1897-1981) is reported by Powell (1994, 2006: p. 97) stating thus: ...When a stage is reached that one feels deeply that whatever is being done is happening and one has not got anything to do with it, then it becomes such a deep conviction that whatever is happening is not happening really. And that whatever seems to be happening is also an illusion. That may be final. In other words, totally apart from whatever seems to be happening, when one stops thinking that one is living, and gets the feeling that one is being lived, that whatever one is doing one is not doing but one is made to do, then that is a sort of criterion.

Pritscher (2001: p. 16) attributes a salient view on nondual realization to Loy (b.1947), an author of a work on comparative philosophy of nondual theologies i.e. Loy (1988): "According to David Loy, when you realize that the nature of your mind and the [U]niverse are nondual, you are enlightened."

Loy, David (1988). Nonduality: A Study in Comparative Philosophy
Pritscher, Conrad P. (2001). Quantum learning beyond duality
Renard, Gary, The Disappearance of the Universe

For the full explanation on the topic of "Nondualism" please visit and search for "Nondualism" or "Nonduality". Though may not be the definitive source of the correct explanation of Nondualism, its explanation is consistent with almost all that I have read about Non-Duality.

There may be multiple definitions of "Non-Duality" so it may be best if I begin by trying to explain the definition that all my writings are based on. I believe this definition will be close to how that term is used in most, but not all, of the books and other references quoted in this website that can be found at: I believe that my use of the term "Non-Duality" is also consistent with how Nondualism is explained in as indicated above.

There is me and there is "other" (everything that is "not me"). In most Non-Duality writings "me" is referred to as "Subject" and everything else that is "not me" is referred to as "Object".

"Duality" is the illusion or mistaken belief that "Subject" and "Object" are two separate things. Subject and Object are not really two separate things. Thus, existence is "Non-Dual".

Existence is not divided up into that which is "me" (Subject) and all that which is not me (Object). Looking at the universe as Subject and Object is just an artificial separation, a separation that does not exist in reality.

From "my" vantage point, it appears to me that everything is either "me" or "other". But that is an artificial interpretation that is only valid from my personal vantage point. From your personal vantage point, you will classify some other part of existence as your "me" and your "other". What is Subject and Object for me is not the same as what is Subject and Object for you. There is no absolute classification of what parts of existence are Subject and what parts of existence are Object. That is because there is no real separation from those things which make up Subject and those things which make up Object. They are just the way each of us experiences and interprets things from our own personal vantage point in existence. This Duality between Subject and Object is just an illusion that we create to define what in existence is "me" and what is "other".

"I" am not separate from everything else in existence. Rather, "I" myself am also part of that existence. "I" am not separate from existence. The concept that existence is somehow divided up into a part that is called "me" and another part that includes everything except for "me" is an illusion. Having this illusion is just a property of being alive. As long as we are alive, we can not escape the illusion that existence appears to be made up of "me" and everything else that is "not me". Though we can't escape the illusion, we can become aware of its existence and greatly reduce the suffering that we allow our perception of the illusion to bring into our lives.

Duality is a property of everything that is alive and it is not a property of anything that is not alive. From the simplest forms of life, viruses and bacteria, they behave as though existence was divided up into Subject and Object. They behave in a manner to promote the survival of the Subject, obtain nutrients from the Objects in their environment, and especially try to avoid being destroyed by hostile Objects. Part of the survival process includes making more copies of the Subject. This is what all forms of life do, from the simplest virus to the most complex mammals, including humans. All life behaves as if the universe was divided into "me" and "not me", Subject and Object. But that which is not alive does not behave as though the universe is divided into Subject and Object. Hence, it is a characteristic of all life in this Non-Dual universe to behave as though it was Dual and divided into Subject and Object.

Humans may be the only life form that think about their own thoughts, and I'm far from convinced that all humans even do this. But we might be the only life form with enough brain power to wonder what is this "I" that divides all that we perceive into Subject and Object. Where do I draw the line between what is "me" and what is "not me"? For what purpose do I divide existence into Subject and Object? And who, or WHAT, is this "I" that is deciding what is "me" and what is "not me"?

From all the years of trying to figure out what existence is about, combined with the reading I have done, I am content in the understanding that the perception that existence is Dual is just an illusion. In reality, there is no "me" separate from "not me". Subject and Object are NOT separate things. Existence itself IS Non-Dual.

That all life behaves as if existence is divided into Subject and Object came about as self perpetuating behavior. At some point molecules formed into an arrangement capable of self replication using the resources they encountered in their environment. From that point on the self replicating form would behave as if there was a Subject to keep alive and everything else was Object to be used as raw materials or to be avoided as a threat to survival.

Evolution produced ever more complex forms of life over time, but all life continued to perpetuate the illusion that there is a Subject to protect and nurture, and Objects to provide nourishment or to fear as a threat to survival.

But there is no "me" and "not me". Existence recognizes no difference between Subject and Object. Each living organism has its own personal vantage point in existence. Every one of those living organisms will behave as though existence is divided into Subject and Object from the different vantage points of each. Thus there are as many different ways of perceiving existence as Subject and Object as there are living organisms. Each organism behaves based on the illusion that it perceives from its particular vantage point in existence. But all these perceptions of existence being Dual are just illusions that are the nature of being alive. When an organism that was alive becomes dead, it no longer interacts as though existence is divided into Subject and Object.

As long as you are alive you can not escape the illusion that existence appears to be Dual and divided into Subject and Object. Like all other life forms, it is built into our biological nature to perceive existence as though it was separated into that which is Subject and that which is Object. You can maybe learn to understand this illusion exists. You might even be able to use that understanding to suffer less and be more content with your life. But you can never "escape" the illusion so long as your remain alive.

Your personal illusion that there is "Subject" (a Self) and "Object" (everthing else) is what defines your personal vantage point in existence. It is how existence gets to experience itself from many different vantage points and how it manages to perpetuate each of these vantage points for a while as well as create new vantage points over time. This illusion is the way in which existence gets to experience or "enjoy" itself as though it weren't non-dual.

You can understand the illusion of Duality but you can not avoid interacting with existence as if it was Dual. The illusion of Duality is the very definition of life itself.

-- Brian William Drisko, 21-Nov-2010 0051

This brings me full circle back to the very first book that I ever read that introduced the illusion of the self and the concept of Non-Duality to me: The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are by Alan Watts. I think the most powerful words might be right in the Preface written by Alan Watts in 1966, before he even gets into the meat of his book. I liked the words when I first read them, but I have far more understanding of them today than when I first read them a number of years ago:

"... the prevalent sensation of oneself as a separate ego enclosed in a bag of skin is a hallucination which accords neither with Western science nor with the experimental philosophy - religions of the East - in particular the central and germinal Vedanta philosophy of Hinduism. ... We are therefore in urgent need of a sense of our own existence which is in accord with the physical facts and which overcomes our feeling of alienation from the universe."

-- Brian William Drisko, 21-Nov-2010 0110

There are other ways of defining Duality other than as the illusion of existence being divided into "me" and "everything else". And there are other ways of defining Non-Duality other than as the non-separated reality of existence.

Though the different ways the terms Duality and Non-Duality are used in some discussions might come close, I think it might be important to identify which definition is intended in each context.

For example, in the context that I have used it above, Duality is defined as an illusion in the way life forms view existence divided into "me" and "other than me". But it is just an illusion. The Duality actually does not exist. It appears to you, to me, and to all life forms that existence is composed of that which is "me" and that which is "other than me". But the word "Duality" is just a label for this illusion. In reality, there is no separate "me" and other stuff in existence that is "not me". It just appears that way because we are alive, and only appears that way WHILE we are alive.

Existence itself is Non-Dual. No matter what we do, what we think, how we behave, we can't make existence Dual. We live in a universe that is Non-Dual. But because we are alive, we live with the illusion that we are something separate from everything else in the universe. We live with the illusion that there is "me" and there is everything else "other than me". Thus we live with the illusion of Duality.

A problem comes up when attempting to use one set of definitions of Non-Duality and Duality in a context that requires a different definition. For example, "Reality is Between The Dualities" will work fine in one context of Duality, but it doesn't work very well in the above context. In the above, there is only one Duality defined as the illusion of existence being separated into "me" and "not me". In that context it doesn't make a lot of sense to say that Reality is between the "me" and the "not me". The whole perception that there is a "me" and "not me" is the illusion of Duality. So maybe it does and maybe it doesn't make sense to say Reality is between the Illusion. But I don't think that is what the statement is trying to convey.

"Reality is Between The Dualities" implies that Duality refers to opposites and that Reality is somewhere between opposites and that there can be different percentages of each opposite. I have no problem with that concept. But in the above context, there are no opposites. In the above context, opposites or percentages are creations of the mind. There is no good or evil in existence except what man defines as such. There is no beautiful or ugly in existence except what man defines as such. Thus even assigning percentages of how much good or evil is in something is purely in the mind of man. If there was no living thing in the universe, there would be no mind to assign such values to anything.

But if you define the terms of Duality as meaning things are divided into good and evil, or beautiful and ugly, or a pleasing tone and a disturbing tone, then the statement can make sense in that context. Then we can have debates or understanding that no thing is 100% of one thing or 100% of the opposite thing. I have no dispute with that. But what has garnered more of my attention is the definition of Duality as illusion and Duality actually doesn't exist at all. Beyond the illusion of Duality, the universe of Non-Duality is all that there is.

-- Brian William Drisko, 21-Nov-2010 0154

Quotes About Advaitism:
The Aim Of Inquiry / The Inadequacy Of Words / Suffering
What Am I? / The Illusion / Purpose / Seeking / Awakening / Acceptance
Other Quotes

Alan Watts: / / Audio Collection
Science & Nonduality / Books, Video, Audio, Podcasts
A Skeptics Approach To Non-Duality / On Being Adopted

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