“The one who sees all beings in the One Self and the One Self in all beings is free.” (Vedas)
Non-dualistic unity is a kind of spiritual realization, and many believe that this is the highest ideal for realization. The basis of this is a realization of no difference between oneself and the Reality Itself. Others teach that this means no difference between perceiver and perceived, or between self and world. And others teach that it means no difference between oneself and God, or that the Divine Self and I are one. Originally, this was a teaching that the soul and Spirit-Self, atman and Brahman, are actually one, with no real difference.
But first of all we need to know that much of this is a philosophical game of words and semantics. In other words, it all depends on how one defines the words or what the concepts actually mean. To unravel all the many misunderstandings in these philosophical adventures would be too much. Yet, there is possible real experience in all this.
Self-realization is realization of the One Self. This is what the idea means. It is not merely a realization that there is One Self; for this would be merely a thought-realization, a knowing that the idea of there being just One Self is true. But, for example, a knowing that Africa is a large continent is not the same as really experiencing this largeness by traveling through it. So this Self-realization of which rishis, masters and initiates speak about is not merely a knowing-that, nor merely a faithfully accepted belief. It’s a real and sustainable experience. Now, if we can understand this foundation, we can understand the essential experiential meaning of non-dualistic unity.
This very idea first came from the Vedantists who proposed that the individual soul (atman) is not a different ‘thing’ or ‘substance’ from the universal Self (Brahman), and hence no dualism implied by atman and Brahman. Yet this unity insight really arises from an experience of one’s soul (atman or essential self) as being no different from the One Self (Brahman). The experience is the same, such that one does not experience atman is one way and Brahman in another; in other words, the experiences are indistinguishable. So in this sense, there is not two, but really just One. This is what was meant by non-dualism. Essentially, it means to not divide Reality into two, and especially to not divide oneself from others or from the world or from the One Self in Whom we all live.
But confusion often arises from the phrase, ‘non-dualistic’, and people often think that this experience entails no distinctions and no relationships. However, True Unity includes distinctions and relationships. This does not have to imply ‘dualism’, because dualism means substantially separate and distinctly different essences. But we are not suggesting this kind of separative dualism. We are simply admitting, within Unity, many kinds of duo-relationships and different distinctions.
Self-realization does give an experience of unity or oneness with all life. Yet this great unity can also include distinctions within it. This great unity can also include differences within it. This great unity can also include vertical levels of quality and realization; that is, there are different relative levels of quality in goodness, harmony and beauty, and also different relative levels of spiritual realization. So a teaching can be confusing or even wrong, if it says that unity means sameness or without any differences or without any levels. Furthermore, within the Unity, there are polarity distinctions, such as inner and outer, self and world, ego and Spirit, truth and falsity, better and worse, working and not working. These distinctions are not only real, but also significantly useful concepts.
One pragmatic distinction is limited self-knowing and Whole Self-knowing.
Related distinctions are realization and non-realization, or conscious and not-conscious. These distinctions are self-evident in our lives. There is a possibility for a little knowing and there is possibility for greater knowing. Examples of obvious. As well, we can be conscious or not-conscious. No one would say these are the same, and it would be equally odd to claim that they have the same value in life. One would rather be conscious than not; though when tired or depressed or in pain, people often opt for the latter. And finally, in more spiritual terms, a spiritually realized person is the same as a non-realized person.
Yet in some non-dualists teachings, it is said that a spiritual realized person is simply one who accepts that everyone is spiritual. Well, everyone might be equally spiritual in the sense of having the same spiritual roots and the same underlying potentials; however, not everyone has realized these roots and this potential. And even in the terms of their argument, they would have to admit that some realize the spiritual truths and some do not, and thus this defines the meaning of spiritual realization and the difference between non-realization. In other words, until the non-dualistic experience comes about, a person would have dualistic experience with corresponding dualistic actions. Thus, there would be a meaningful distinction between the dualistic person and the non-dualistic person, and this would define the meaning of spiritual realization. Along with this basic distinction, there would also be meaningful distinctions between possible degrees of realization or degrees of True spiritual knowing, and also levels of good discernment between greater spiritual values and lesser values of the unrealized. Thus, we do live in a dualistic world with such distinctions (higher and lower, greater and lesser), and we must make discernments based on this dualistic reality and also have to deal with the real world of dualism. Nonetheless, the spiritual person treats everyone with spiritual dignity and realizes their true spiritual nature, even if they do not.
Non-dualists teach that there is a possible state of non-dualistic realization (or consciousness). This would then be in contrast to a dualistic consciousness. So even in this non-dualistic teaching there is still a dualistic distinction between non-dualistic consciousness and dualistic consciousness. In other words, there is an inevitable distinction a unity-realized state and a non-realized state. Thus, unity consciousness cannot entail no-distinctions. It must include distinctions, even opposites such as realized and non-realized states, unity consciousness and non-unity consciousness. This follows other significant opposite distinctions; such as love-wisdom mind vs. ignorant mind, and also conscious intentional life vs. automatic conditioned life. These distinctions are real and important, so they cannot be dismissed by non-dualism. Someone who acts from love and wisdom makes an important difference from someone else who acts from selfishness or ignorance. And a life consciously lived with purpose is much different from a life without any realization of purpose or any connection to a greater purpose. So the first confusion to avoid in non-dualistic teachings is to mistakenly think that it involves no distinctions or no opposites. Within unity there are also variable levels, such as levels of realization, levels of love-wisdom, and levels of consciousness. Unity doesn’t necessitate a flat-dimensional reality, with no levels of depth or no levels of importance, no levels of quality or no levels of realization. Any flat dimensional teaching is a false unity.
Next, understand that Unity IS, no matter if realized or not. The whole existence is Unity, and the enlightened person realizes this Unity, experiences this Unity. But even if the Unity is not realized, the Unity still IS, so the unrealized person is still in the same Unity.
So what is this Unity?
It is a unity of necessary relationships – between polar opposites and between the levels. The realization of Unity, or the unity consciousness, is the realization or realized acceptance of duality as a relational unity. Unity, and the realization of Unity, includes duality. It accepts duality relationship, or polar relationship. It realizes and accepts this polarized existence, with its relational opposites. It accepts the non and the realized state, the ignorance and the wisdom in life, the dumb and the profound, and also the many polarized conflicts in the greater learning process of evolution.
There are necessary complementing opposites, exemplified in male and female, force and space, giving and receiving, etc, etc. Also, there are opposites in value; such as, love and hatred, wisdom and ignorance, beauty and dreadful, good and bad. And as well, there are inevitable conflicts between differing opinions about what is true and false, right and wrong, beauty or not. These last two types, opposites in value and inevitable conflicts, have to be understood in connection to the whole evolutional purpose and process. This process is moving towards greater love, wisdom, truth, goodness and beauty. And it has to come from states where there is lack in these. Also along this process are inevitable conflicts, until they work themselves out.
Dualistic distinctions are pragmatic and valid. Though absolute distinctions are not. Because each distinction also contains some of its opposite. Self and world are valid, pragmatic distinctions. Yet every self contains some of the world, and the world cannot be absolutely distinguished from selves in it. At any point there is a perspective. There is a here and there, an inside and outside. These are not absolute distinctions, but they are nonetheless valid and pragmatic. This is just the way life is. Dualistic distinctions are simply unavoidable, because this is how we experience reality from relative perspectives. Sometimes we drift into absolute knowing, but no one should be getting big headed about that, because most of our work here is about relative existence. So let’s not be in denial about it, nor spiritual fantasize about finally going beyond any dualism or perspective. Live in the dualistic world, and accept it as necessary in the Unity. Live well in this relative world, but without attachment.
But realistically, we cannot deny the dualism of knowledge vs. ignorance, correct vs. incorrect, excellence vs. mediocrity, value vs. cheap, good vs. despicable, love vs. hate, sensitive vs. insensitive, conscious vs. unconscious. It would be false to claim that these are unreal distinctions. It would be just dumb to claim that everything is good, excellent, valuable, loving, and smart. To think falsely that everything is of equal par or equally the same in value is to make a value-depth dimensional reality into a flat single dimensional reality. Its like making a multi-colored landscape into a greyscale blur.
We don’t have to deny dualistic distinctions in order to realize Unity. We just need to accept the dualistic distinctions as within the Unity Reality. Yet, these are not absolutely separated opposites. This will require some extended explanation, as follows. The opposites already mentioned, for example value vs. cheap, are not Real distinct places. It is not like all things in the world are dividable into two simple and absolutely separate categories: value or cheap; that some things are of value and all other things are cheap. Reality is not so simple as this. Value and cheap are polarized Concepts, meaning that they are like flags at opposites sides of a vast field. There is nothing really at each flag; these flags are only in mind. However, they serve an important mental purpose, which is to help us make intelligent distinctions. The reality of actual things, people and events will always be somewhere in between these two opposite flags, that is, between absolute Value and absolute Cheap. Everything in our real existence is somewhere in the relative space between these absolute poles; and thus, we might say that everything is relative. What relativity means is that each personal presence or each action is good relative to what might be bad, or bad relative to what might be good, or of value relative to what is cheap, or cheap relative to what is of great value. Everything is relative, but this just means that we can only distinguish something in relation to or in comparison to something else, and we do this along a conceptual line with poles at each opposite end. Most importantly, understand that people and things cannot be placed in absolutely divided rooms, like good and bad, right and wrong, value and cheap. To think in such an absolutely divided way would be absolute dualism; like having two distinctly divided rooms, good and bad, with many in one room and all others in the other room. This is the absolute dualism in which enlightened religious people reject.
Yet, a non-absolutist dualism can still accept a relativistic dualism; in the realization that we need to make intelligent and ethical distinctions between polar opposites, such as good and bad, valuable and cheap, right and wrong. Yet everything falls somewhere between the polarized opposites (the opposing polarized Concepts). Again, the polarized opposites are like flags at both ends a great field, and everything real will be somewhere between these – using the polar concepts to make relative distinctions.
The non-dualistic criticism of spiritual seeking has some merit, but there is also some misunderstanding in it. The criticism is this. If one is a spiritual seeker, or believing that there is something of the Divine or of Enlightenment to search for, then this is a belief which already assumes that one is separated from the Aim and also that the Aim will hopefully be achieved some time in the near future.
Thus, there are two problems. One is the separative assumption, dividing seeker and Sought. In theistic mysticism the Sought is God, and in non-theistic mysticism the Sought is Enlightenment. And of course, many teachings understand these to be the same. The second problem is an assumption that the Aim will be achieved in the future. Since one is on a Search or a Path, the presupposition is that God will realized, or Enlightenment will come, some time in the future. But does the future ever really come to be the present? That is the question.
The non-dualistic criticism is that if one is assuming that the Aim will be realized in the future, then it will always be in the future. In other words, it will never be realized in the present, because one is always assuming it will come in the future. Yet, if God is to be realized, or if Enlightenment is to come, this could only happen in a present moment. Real experience and transformation can only be in some present moment. The efficacious importance of this is that God can only be realized in this present moment, or in some present moment. Enlightenment only happens in a present moment, so come into it now in this present moment. The Aim can only be reached in a present moment, so it will have to be experienced as this moment, not some future. The only time that any realization can happen is in the present. (see present moment practices).
Yet, even though this is true, it is also true that the practices and steps we take now, in this present moment, are leading towards finer realizations in the future. Sometimes one has to practice preliminary steps before coming into a ripe condition for spontaneous realizations. We can notice this truth in regular life, in the achievement of any skill, and it is also true in spiritual matters. It is unrealistic and naïve to believe that an egoless state or an expansive integral awareness is completely realizable in any moment, as though preparation is insignificant. But many non-dualist teachings would try to deny this simple principle that the future is built upon the present. They are right, though, that we should not just be future oriented and ignore the greater importance of the present.
In addition, realization is not some absolutist state; rather, it has various depths and degrees. In other words, if one does have some kind of awakening realization or an experience of God, it could be expected that even deeper realizations are possible. By the very nature of realization and experience, in regards to anything, there are various possible depths and degrees. Thus, one might ask, at any moment, what is the depth or degree of this experience; and could it be that further depth is possible? We would be arrogant, in any moment, to deny this; making an substantiated conclusion that this present realization is the highest or deepest or greatest ever possible. Therefore, it makes good sense that one might hope for deeper realizations in the future, rather than assume that it could all be done in this present moment. Thus, there is some reasonable meaning in longing for a greater and deeper experience, which one might see as in the future. This makes sense. But it is also true that one might as well not continually put this possibility off into the future, since it could be found right in this very moment rather than in some moment later on.
The next non-dualist criticism is the separative assumption, dividing seeker and Sought. The moment one perceives oneself as a seeker of God, or a seeker of enlightenment, the goal is already being assumed as outside of oneself. Traveling to God, or a path to God, has an intrinsic assumption that God is out there somewhere, rather than at the core of one’s own present self. Thinking that one needs to pray in order for God to arrive makes an assumption that God is some distance away, and it also makes an assumption that God is not already here. For if God were already here, then why are prayers “going out to God”? Most spiritual and religious phrases have an inherent separative presupposition in them. Eastern style talk about enlightenment has its own intrinsic separativeness, but it is more subtle. The more common eastern spiritual sense of separation is between seeker and the enlightened Teacher. There isn’t a separative God, but instead there is a separative Teacher or guru. The Teacher-guru is treated as sanctified and very often idealized as a perfect being who is fully enlightened and infinitely wise. Most of the God seeking traditions do not have such assumptions about their spiritual Teachers, and there is more of an egalitarian connection with everyone since everyone is more equally distant from their goal, God. But since the eastern paths tend to accept that the goal is within oneself, it is also accepted that certain people have achieved this goal and even realize it in an absolute way. In other words, some people are “there.” They made it there. While all of us seekers and students are not there yet. And not only are we not there, while the Teacher is, we are obviously separate from the Teacher, not so much by our separate bodies, but more so by this ignorance / knowingness dividedness, or between the unenlightened and the enlightened. Thus, this separativeness is criticized by many non-dualists; even though most of them fall into this very problem.
Now, we could simply dismiss this whole problem as an example of psyche projection, meaning that the person is projecting outside of himself what is really already within. This is certainly part of it all. However, there is actually some real truth in the separative experiences. For in truth this problem of man being somewhat separate from God is inevitable; since we have inevitable limitations in mind and knowing, while it is presupposed that God does not have these limitations. And one could also say in truth that certain people become Teachers or gurus for the simple reason that they have actually achieved a realization and transformation that is very special and non-ordinary, which ordinary people have yet to achieve or realize. So it would seem that these problems of dividedness are somewhat inevitable. As Plato believed, we are in a world of becoming, so the Absolute is not so apparent, but it is nonetheless present.
But how can we realize Unity by breaking from this apparently inevitable dividedness, either between God and man, or between Teacher and student? Here are some possible answers. Between God and oneself, realize that God really is right here, both within and around, and certainly present in this very moment. So if there is a search, it is a search right here and in this present moment. Also realize oneself as part of God, as both in God and as an expression of God. An old sense of separation will dissolve in this realization.
Between Teacher and student, realize that we are both sharing in the same existential and spiritual moment. We are both in this same present moment of reality, and this present reality is the real Teacher. Realize we are in the same boat. Also realize that each of us, in any moment, is capable of some depth or degree of Realization, but no one can ever be assumed to be in the Absolute Depth. Or maybe in human experience there isn’t any Absolute end-point depth possible; but only relative degrees? The bottom line, as it were, is that we are all in the same Vast Ocean of Being. There are no absolute divisions between people, as if some are absolutely enlightened and others absolutely not; but rather, there are infinite possible depths and relative degrees of realization, so our realizations are fluctuating along a Vast Continuum. The Key to breaking free of separativeness is to realize what is Shared.
Many non-dualistic teachings also criticize intention and effort. Consider what intention is. One is making a decision at one moment to work at something for a while, in order to achieve some goal in the future. So intention is sometimes thought to be dualistic, because it implies a separation between this present moment and the future when an intention is hopefully fulfilled. It also implies that a certain work, or effort, is needed to reach spiritual realization. Yet some non-dualists argue that no work is really needed, since the spiritual goal is already present and all that is missing is the realization of this in a present moment. There are some useful and true insights in such arguments. For if the goal of Realization is right in oneself, and also if such Realization can only be in some present moment, then it seems confusing as to the value of intention and effort. Afterall, the answer is all right here and right now, and it is already the truth of oneself. So what would be the needed intention and effort? The answer to this is subtle. Even though what is said above is true, there is still a needed intention and effort to make this conscious self-exploration and maintain enough freedom from mechanical habits that would otherwise impede the possible depths of Self-Realization.
The key for this Realization is that the Self-essence is already present here in oneself. So there is no where else one needs to go, and no special path (in a literal meaning) to get there. There is no there at all. It is actually right here. Yet what could be missing is the awareness or realization of it. Finding Reality is the goal, and this goal is already presently here, but still needed is the awakening, the awareness, the realization. So then, how does this awakening, awareness, realization emerge? There is a kind of intention and effort needed, but the meaning of this is subtle. How does one awaken from an ordinary waking-sleep? It does seem to require some kind of will or desire to be awake. It is sort of like, how does one get out of bed? It can happen automatically, but then this is merely an acquired habit; so otherwise, will and effort is needed. But in this case of Self-awakening there is no place to go other than right here, and it really does not require some future time – because it could only happen right now.
What is needed to understand is that Awakening is not some special unnatural phenomena. Rather, awakening, awareness and realization are very especially natural. You see, who you are searching for, the essence of oneself, is the essential self-experiencer. So in searching for your self, your most essential self, you are in fact searching for the one searching. Because the awareness that is searching is your true being-essence. Thus, the search is not for anything distant at all. What is Sought is the self-essence of experience, the one who is essentially experiencing this life, and this is in essence the same as the seeker. So the seeker is really seeking the seeker.
Then .. this is the same as the Sought as being God
But also remember that awareness could be just an instrument for beingness.
Note that true realization is not a matter of thought. It is experience.
On Advaita Beingness and nothing to do since awareness is already present in the seeking.
--- yet there is also a possible deepening (and also perhaps an expanding). And thus a mode of searching and longing.
Nothing to do; yet need intensity in the moment (not intensity for a future.. achievement (of egolessness) (which is a concept)
Yet,,,,… egolessness will be like layers taken off…. It does not seem to all come down all at once… and we need to transform mind/emotions patterns – unless we want to say that enlightenment makes egoness alright. Can someone be enlightened and still beat up on the wife?
So.. in this sense.. it takes a process of ego dissolution and transformation , and since it is a process the future is a viable concept… greater realizations , deeper and more expanded consciousness, will be in the future … and greater freedom from ego.. less ego… etc. all in the future.
And YET , it is true that transformation is in the present moment.
So the practice has to be present–oriented
The non-dualistic philosophies are often confused, or at least we get confused by them, probably because of the sheer difficulty in reflecting upon and discussing this without falling into an almost inevitable trap of dualistic language. First of all, let us make clear that in this discussion the terms non-duality, non-dualism, and unity will be synonymous in meaning, to keep things simple, even if that might not be so in other kinds of discourse. Consciousness, awareness, and mind can also be synonymous in this context.
One critique of many non-dualistic discussions is that a certain belief is pre-stated as absolutely true, such for example that there is really only unity and that duality is an illusion, and then the teachers go on from this presupposition to find ways of thinking that will induce this belief. It is like, I will tell you what is absolutely true, and then I will work on ways to bring you to a conviction of that. This is, of course, the normal route of most philosophical discourse, so perhaps it is almost inevitable. But a more honest approach would be to reflect openly and honestly upon reality and experience, in order to discover the possible unity, or unity awareness.
Another critique is when some non-dualistic teachings presuppose and suggest as true that there is nothing to attain because unity already and eternally exists. There is some truth in this, but also not… (which will be a common principle of dilemma in unity teachings due to the inherent dichotomy of descriptive language).
There is nothing really to attain is true in the sense that reality is already an unbroken, unseparated unity. Having attained a certain realization or experience of unity does not magically transform existence from being dualistic to non-dualistic. That would be nonsense; the unity must have already been Real, prior to its realization. However, if there is a direct realization or experience of unity, this was in fact a transformation from non-unity experience to unity experience. Thus, experiencing subject had been in duality, and then this experience transformed into unity. So there was a duality at some time. Yet this was not a duality in existence, or in Reality, but rather a duality in one’s experience. And this duality in experience is the very crux of the problem.
One could talk all day about how Reality is one unity, or non-dualistic, and there might even be an intellectual understanding about this, but something is yet to be solved if the people’s actual experience of this Reality is still dualistic. So it is somewhat confusing for teachings to announce that there is nothing to attain or no needed transformation, because there is the needed transformation from dualistic mind to unity mind, which is a kind of attainment since it was not there before. Therefore, even the idea of being a seeker of oneness then makes sense. For if you are presently in a rigid dualistic mind-set, and perhaps even convinced about separatism, then it would not be true that ‘there is nothing to transform or attain’. One could rightly say that unity is real, or that reality is one unity, or that separative selfness is an illusion. However, if the illusion is still persistent in my experience, then I am experientially cut off from the unity.
Furthermore, what kind of actual unity is Reality if its participants are persistently in a non-unity experience? Would it not be true that participating experience is also part of this existence? Thus, if human beings are not experiencing unity, then Existence is not completely an unseparated unity, since dualistic minds still persist. In other words, any dualistic awareness or belief would be, itself, a contradiction to the proposition that all Reality is an unseparated unity. Making sense of this to oneself, if you are not in the experience of unity, then ‘existence is unity’ is not actually true for you.
It seems more useful to propose that unity mind, or non-dualistic experience, is possible; -- rather than presuppose that mind is already non-dualistic, or to merely claim that there is no dualistic mind. Then explore some ways to reach this possible unity experience.
One needs to be truly honest in oneself about this unity awareness. Is there really a complete unity? Or is the thinking mind merely attempting to believe one is realizing absolute unity by thinking about it.
The key to realizing unity, or non-dualism, is not just about a new way of thinking. It does involve new ways of thinking or a transformation of one’s conditioned tendency to think dualistically. However, the actual experience (or what we are also calling a realization) of non-dualistic unity is beyond thought, beyond just a way of thinking, and beyond ideas. For imagine claiming that one is realizing unity just by thinking about it, or by just believing it is true. This would merely be a thought, idea, or belief. Gee, I am thinking about unity, so I have now arrived in it. Or gee, I believe in this unity, or I believe I am already in unity; so therefore it must be so. Belief is not enough. Are you going to hold this belief persistently through every moment of the day? You will probably slip consistently back into dualistic thoughts and a dualistic mode of mind, since that is probably still the mind’s habit. So you will need to continually remember the unity idea or the unity belief. You will have to continually come back to what you think is the right way of thinking and believing. You will probably have to continually grope for that special thought or idea about yourself or about reality, which has become your special key to this right way of thinking, the non-dualistic way.
All of this may well be a path; but it will never be sufficient. Because the actual experience or realization of unseparative unity is not merely a thought or idea or belief. In fact, one has to finally get beyond thought, or thinking about unity; because this itself creates duality in experience. The ultimate way to unity experience is to give up thinking about it, or reflecting upon it (reflection does of course involve duality). And simply surrender into it; that is, surrender thoughts about the world (or existence or reality) in order for mind to just be in the world. Let mind/awareness pervade the space all around, without any grasping about it or analyzing it. Mind, free of thinking and thought, is then able to simply be in the world, and the world in it. Or in some sense, the mind is now with the world. Since it is really the thinking mind that has been creating dualistic experience all along, it follows logically that surrendering this mental tendency is the answer. For when the mind surrenders its dualism, unity then emerges.
Additionally, our separate selfness needs to be surrendered.
So what does it mean to surrender one’s separate selfness? What is the separate self?
First of all, there are thoughts and feelings of selfness. Mostly these are bound together into thought/feelings. We can notice the kinds of thought that are separative. It is not just thoughts of I am separate from others and from the world. It might also be thoughts of I am better, or I am more important, and there are many more examples. Overall there is a distinct feeling of being separative. Yet many emotions can also be separative, such as anger and depression. Desires of the self, for the self, are also part of being a separative self. The average person is virtually a set of self-desires along with reactive patterns that get kicked in when those desires get thwarted. Then along with this is an intellect used to calculate how to achieve self-centered goals, and how to manipulate others for these selfish ends. All of this is part of the separative ego apparatus, which also includes self-attachment – a kind of holding to one’s own self-concepts and how one thinks one is in the social world. In other words, there is holding on to certain personality traits and to one’s supposed social identity. This all adds to the separative situation of mind, because it holds us back from a fluidity of self and thus a flowingness with the world. Finally, there is a separativeness from the Universal Presence of Spirit/Life. So, all of this needs surrendering before the mind and heart are capable of experiencing real Unity.