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What is Nonduality?

by Jerry Katz

Nonduality means “not two” or “non-separation.” It is the sense that all things are interconnected and not separate, while at the same time all things retain their individuality.

We tend to view the world as made up of separated, pretty much isolated “entities.” By entities is meant everything: people, political parties, beliefs, nations, objects in nature, and most importantly one’s very own individual self.

The experience of nonduality

Yet one may know any number of instances in which you — your individual self — fades into an experience. You realize you are not separate from your experience, nor are the apparent entities making up the experience separate from the experience or from you, and that all of it — the experience, you, the players making up the experience —  are all essentially one thing . . .  much like a dream.

Such an instance may happen from being in nature, from enjoying music or art, or from being deeply involved in a hobby or work. It may be known during sex. It may occur while walking in the park, while dancing, surfing, or having a few beers with some awesome people.

The experience of nonduality may be realized during meditation, yoga, or from reading something that blows your mind.

The nondual moment may happen for no reason at all: maybe you’re sitting on your deck and geese fly by, or maybe you’re driving your car and suddenly everything is different, or perhaps you just woke up from a sleep.

You have almost certainly had at least one such nondual experience in your life, and probably several.

Arising out of this experience might be an uncommonly genuine happiness. However, the experience may also rock your world such that it is never again the same, for now you see the world not as separate entities struggling for survival, but as a single experience of non-separation  . . . again, much like a dream.

The Pursuit of Nonduality

If the experience of nonduality is important to you — and no law says it has to be — you may have the need to find out more. If the experience has altered your life, you may have no choice but to understand what happened.

Your pursuit may take you to various websites and online groups, books, and people who might provide guidance and clarity. You may engage spiritual practices, attend meetings with nondual teachers, go on retreats. Whatever you do, whatever happens to you in this pursuit, will be unique for you.

This pursuit could begin at any time. Even if you had a powerful nondual experience decades ago, but never investigated it deeply, you could start today. However, don’t waste your time trying to “bring back” a past experience. Rather, focus on what it awakened.

How do you initiate the pursuit of nonduality? Lots of advice could be given. However, there is endless information online. More essentially, there is you, your existence. You could begin right there, right here, by attending to the fact that you are aware. “I am aware.” . . . “I am.”

In this regard, you might like the works of Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta Maharaj, and Wei Wu Wei. Effective living teachers include Adyashanti, Francis Lucille, Greg Goode, Chuck Hillig, Galen Sharp, Bob Adamson, Rupert Spira. Many other guides, confessors, realizers, teachers, sages, gurus, both living and deceased, will be discovered.

Brief descriptions of what nonduality (or Advaita) is:

Bede Griffiths:
“Advaita (nonduality) does not mean “one” in the sense of eliminating all differences. The differences are present in the one in a mysterious way. They are not separated anymore, and yet they are there.”

Tim Freke, Scholar, Author, Stand up Philosopher:
My experience is that fundamentally reality is characterized by polarity. For me it’s not nondual or dual. It’s both at the same time. … Polarity is opposites, but they can only exist together. … They’re two and one at the same time. The paradox of our predicament is that it’s two and one at the same time. I see no reason to prejudice one over the other. In fact, I see a necessity to be conscious of both. What I’ve looked for is an image that can capture that experience. For me the image is lucid living, which is a state comparable to lucid dreaming, only now. … On the one hand I am Tim … I’m actually so individual that I inhabit this unique point in space and time and no one else can or ever will inhabit it. Then there’s the discovery of this deeper nature, the subject itself, not the object, the “I”, that which is witnessing this, and if I go deeply into that now it is a vast spaciousness in which all this is arising just like in a dream. And those two exist together, so “here” it’s all one, “here” it’s all separate. Which is true? They’re both true.

Francis Lucille, nonduality teacher:
The definition for nonduailty would be that there is one single reality. We all have the knowledge that we are conscious and that consciousness is real. That which hears the words is consciousness. That is beyond a shadow of a doubt. …The world is only a concept which is inferred from perceptions. Perceptions are mind stuff. … Consciousness is the reality of our experience. If there is only one reality … the reality of all minds must be the same. That is the fundamental understanding of nonduality.


To discover many more definitions of nonduality, please click here.