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#3532 - Thursday, May 14, 2009 - Editor: Jerry Katz

The Nonduality Highlights



Nathan, Durga, Dennis, Gary, Miriam respond to the nonduality and pain posting. Thank you for your contributions.


This issue continues to look at responses from the blog entry asking about the knowing of nonduality and the experience of pain. The first part of this series is at  

The original blog entry is followed by responses:  

Original Blog Entry:

I totally accept by this time, having read such a humungous shitpile of non-duality books, that everything without exception is utterly false, meaningless, pointless, transient, illusory, and bogus. You win! Hands down, in a cakewalk. Ok I surrender I got the message.

That leaves only one leetle issue:

Why can I still feel pain?

It's all very well to say everything is unreal, but if somebody strapped me in a chair and did me like they did to those backpackers in the Hostel I and II movies, it wouldn't be any consolation that everything is unreal. Yeah I know that some authors like to bs about how 'pain is mandatory but suffering is optional'. But I bet they still take novocaine if they have root canal work.

Seriously -  pain is the real issue, along with deprivational pain also of course, such as extreme hunger in starvation. What good does it do us to be swamped with a torrent of words about how everything is unreal when we can still feel pain?

The only real exception to my point here that has some cred with me is not the fancy words the ND Masters try to sell you, but rather the famous case of  the Viet monk who sat calmly while burning himself alive. There was a guy who walked the talk. Time magazine ought to have chosen that guy as their Person of the Century instead of Einstein or whoever it was.

Anyway, I conclude that non-duality is not so much wrong as it is useless.



What strikes me is this...

...Now that we have arrived at this conclusion; that all of this stuff is worthless, "useless", utterly false [and so on] what are we going to do with this heaping pile of shit we have accumulated? Now that what's left is all pointless, now you are truly free. Make a right just beyond all of that crap and that's where you'll find the gift.




My comment would be that the writer is correct
in a way.  What don't we want?  Pain.  What do
we want?  Happiness.  How can I achieve happiness
if I still experience pain?  Good question.

Here's another question do 'I'
(who I really am) experience pain, ever?

There's a lovely verse in the Bhagavad Gita,
which says "The knower of the self crosses sorrow."

Well, that sounds pretty good.  That seems to be
what we want.  Who is the knower of the self?
What is the self? How is it known?  And what does
it mean 'crosses sorrow?'

There is another verse where Krishna tells Arjuna,
(who is about to go out and do battle with loved ones)
"You are grieving over that which has never been
born, and can never die."

Strange words!

So what does all of this mean?  'I' certainly seem to
experience pain, as well as pleasure, as well as a
whole host of experiences in between which are neutral.

First of all, it's useful to sort out a few things.

On the level of duality, where action and reaction
take place, there is indeed pain and there is indeed

Then there is another 'level,' as it were, where nothing
happens, nothing changes, that nothing can affect, and
when recognized is realized to be the true source of
all happiness.

All living beings want happiness, and we all run after
it in different ways.  So what exactly is happiness?

Happiness is the feeling in the mind of, "All is well
with me.  This is how I am meant to be.  This feels
right.  I like this feeling, and I want to keep it.
I don't want it to ever go."

However, right there in those few words lies the key
to the problem of happiness which comes about through
the gain of an object or an experience.

The problem is that the mind knows from experience,
that as good as a happy experience is, it inevitably
doesn't last.

So, how does happiness work?  How does it come about?

There is that about 'me' which is the true source
of happiness.  It is that which I love the most.
It is that which the poets refer to as 'the beloved.'

When I gain an object, or an experience I desire, in
that moment of gain the mind relaxes, and that about
'me' which is the true source of happiness, which
is ever present and lights up all experience, for
a moment that relaxed mind experiences the shining
of that beloved 'me' with no competing thoughts, and
for that moment 'I' feel happy.

Since that feels really good, and since from experience
we have found that the gain of an object or situation
has made us happy, we try and repeat this experience
over and over again.

But what is really going on?

What is going on is that the never changing, ever
present 'I' (or self) is the true source of happiness.
But since the mind doesn't know that, the mind continually
projects the 'happiness effect' out into the world,
in the form of a desired object or situation, and
then runs after that thing.

Some people think that the gain of 'enlightenment' means
that 'I' won't suffer any more.  Well, did 'I' ever?
And who is this 'I' we are talking about?

In a sense there are two 'I's.  One is really 'I'
and one isn't.  The one which isn't, is the body,
mind and sense organs, and the one which is, is
the one we initially take to be a product of those

So first of all we have to make a distinction
between the two.  We need to recognize the 'I'
which is ever present, never changes,  and is the
actual source of all happiness. 

Then what about the body/mind?  Are there still going
to be experiences of suffering?  Yes, there will be,
because the body and the mind belong to the world
of duality, which can only be called 'illusory'
or 'false' when compared to the 'I' which is
ultimately 'real.' 

False and illusory don't mean 'non-existent'
(like the horn of a rabbit.) 'False and illusory' means
those things that come and go and don't really
have a separate being of their own.

If the mind has recognized the true source of happiness,
the never changing ever present, 'I am,' then the mind
doesn't need to project that happiness out into the
world of changing phenomena and run after it.

The mind can rest in 'I am' and from there experience
the world of duality with its inevitable ups and downs,
now knowing that 'I' am never touched, never have been
touched, have never been born, and can never die.

For the one who has recognized this, that one crosses
sorrow, because that mind has recognized that my being
is never ever, and has never ever been, subject to
sorrow at any time.


Dennis Waite  

Hi Jerry,


Here is the answer I gave to someone asking a similar question via my website, followed by a further comment:



I think that the way to look at it is firstly to differentiate between pain and suffering and secondly to ask what is meant when we refer to ‘I’.


As far as the unenlightened are concerned, I *am* the body-mind. This means that, when there is a pain, I firmly believe that ‘I’ have the pain and start worrying: how serious is it? how long will it last? will it get worse etc. Instead of simply acknowledging that it is a symptom of some malfunction in the body and doing whatever is necessary to get it fixed, we magnify it into something much more than it really is and give it a disproportionate amount of attention. I.e. we ‘suffer’ in addition to having the pain. (I always remember an occasion when I was in a cross-country race in my early teens. I had run quite well and, in the last couple of hundred yards even sprinted to overtake another runner. It was not until sometime after I had finished the race that I noticed the back of my sock covered in blood from a burst blister, which only then began to be very painful. I.e. it was only when I gave it my attention that it became a problem.)


So, to answer your question, of course the enlightened still have pains, possibly very severe ones such as Nisargadatta with his throat cancer. But knowing completely and irrevocably that they are not the body, they know that ‘I do not have the pain’ and that makes a world of difference. There is no  concomitant suffering.


This is the theory anyway. My knowledge of history is atrocious but I am sure there are instances in all religions of people being tortured and/or killed because of their beliefs, yet not recanting and dying (to be sainted or whatever in later years). I don’t think anyone claims that they did not feel the pain, just that their beliefs were able to sustain them. In the case of true enlightenment, it is no longer the status of ‘belief’ but of akhaNDAkAra vRRitti.  Since the perception of pain is in the mind, it is genuinely the case that the enlightened can say that the pain is simply another mithyA form of that non-dual reality that I am.



The idea of non-duality will not help in the slightest. Moreover, for the unenlightened person in a torture situation, there will be heightened attention to the identification of ‘I am the body’ and this will make the feelings of pain even worse and there will be no possibility of remembering the beliefs of non-duality. But the enlightened person does not have mere ideas or even beliefs. Such a person has certain, direct knowledge of the fact that ‘I am not the body’, ‘I cannot be touched by anything’, ‘everything is appearance only, name and form of my Self’ etc. The pain is still observed, naturally, but is known not to be happening to ‘me’ but to the body-mind.


The bottom-line is that non-duality will not help an awful lot as far as experiencing the pain is concerned but then so what? You could just as well have said that ‘despite non-duality, I will still die.’ This is also untrue. Who-you-really-are was never born so cannot die. But the body will still grow old and die. Non-duality cannot stop any of those things happening that are part of the appearance of duality. The show must go on!


Best Wishes,




Gary Crowley

First and foremost, this question is asked from a place of “mistaken identity,” but what the heck, I’ll play along.  If “you” are tied up and being tortured then nonduality will probably “help you” (I assume your case of mistaken identity means “help you” to stop feeling the physical pain from being tortured) to the same degree that Jesus, Mohammed, Krishna, or Vishnu will.  Also, any invisible giant in the sky that you believe has your false self’s personal interest at heart will also probably help the “false you” to the very same degree—i.e., they won’t “help” much at all.

However, if your case of mistaken identity is resolved and there is an active present moment understanding that “what you are” is the “nondual experiencing of duality,” then there will still be the experiencing of pain, and probably  continued attempts at escaping from the pain, but there will not be suffering.

The false self will not be there whining that things “could’ve, would’ve, or should’ve been different in that moment,” because there would be an active present moment understanding that as the “nondual experiencing of duality” you don’t just get “one side” of duality that so many spiritual teachers promise, but you get the full spectrum of living: pleasure and pain, joy and sorrow, living and dying.

There would be the nondual active understanding that the experiencing of living can’t have one side without the other, and thus, there would be no suffering. And again, it would be natural for a human being to attempt to get away from the pain, so as the “nondual experiencing of duality” that too would most likely be a part of the experiencing of being tortured.
Gary Crowley, Author of From Here To Here, Turning Toward Enlightenment.     


Miriam Louisa Simons


Understanding something (anything) causes an effect in the structure of the brain.


J Krishnamurti talked about a mutation of the brain – a re-ordering of the cells.  Wei Wu Wei used the word 'apperception' to refer to this inner reorganization of the contents of consciousness.  Science has a name for it, and a whole new research arena: Neuroplasticity.


In the case of nondual understanding, it's not that the outer circumstances of one's life necessarily change, but one's relationship to them certainly does.  Pain comes with the human package.  How it is experienced depends on the brain's response, and all brains are unique. (Why would a Novocain response be invalid, pray tell?)


What triggers nondual apperception?  Six billion answers and counting.


The only thing these answers appear to have in common is a threshold at which one drops speculation, abandons hope, and is angry/depressed/disappointed/disgusted enough to give up.  And then?  Give up.


And then?


Give up.


(You will die but it won't kill you.)


For this brain it began with a gift out of the blue.  In the midst of suicidal agony, Grace came.  And left a calling card.  I've posted a recollection on my (very) new blog:


- Louisa


ps "I conclude that non-duality is not so much wrong as it is useless."  Excellent!  Tabby's whiskers are on the right twitch … 

Thank you all who responded to this message. I am grateful. Jimmy    

We will publish yet another article on the current topic in the next edition of the Highlights, entitled Amelioration of Affliction and Advaita, by Ramesam Vemuri.

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