Nonduality: The Varieties of Expression

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#3753 - Tuesday, December 22, 2009 - Editor: Jerry Katz

The Nonduality Highlights -

An e-book from Publications...

"Colin has a passionate love affair with Truth. This has culminated in him writing, simply and

clearly, what has been revealed to him. His writings are an invitation to those with a similar

interest, to explore and discover for themselves. Enjoy." Isaac Shapiro

~ ~ ~

Beyond the 'Separate Self'

The End of Anxiety and Mental Suffering

A Simple Guide to Awakening

Based on the Meditations, Contemplations, and Experiences
of Forty Years of Spiritual Search and Practice

by Colin Drake

$8 in .pdf format. Download now.


Introduction 5

1 The Problem 9

2 Investigation of Experience 17

3 Simply Free to Be 26

4 The Perceiver Not the Perceived 40

5 Nothing to Achieve, Find or Get 46

6 On 'This' and 'That' 52

7 Nothing Special 58

8 Home Is Where the Heart Is 62

9 Nothing Matters 66

10 Relax into Self-Realization 71

11 Mantra as a Vehicle of Revelation 75

12 Every Thought and Sensation Reveals Reality 80

13 Nothing to Do, No Problem to Solve 84

14 So What? ... What Now? 88

15 All or Nothing 97

16 The Full Potential 102

17 The Best of All Worlds, Humanity at its Peak 112

18 Purpose and Meaning 117

19 The Absolute Reality 124

20 The Essential Self 150

21 Self-Liberation Through Naked Awareness 172

Appendix - Spiritual Experience 180
Glossary 190
Bibliography 194
Index 196
Biography 207


This book is designed to help its readers go 'beyond the separate self'; that is to free oneself

from obsessive thinking and worrying about one's self-image, health, wealth, status,

achievements, lack of achievements, past, future and ultimate survival. These are all caused by

identifying oneself as an individual object in a universe of multiple objects, and also by

comparing oneself with like objects (other people). How we identify ourselves is at the heart of

how we view the world and our place in it. If we fail to correctly identify 'what we are' (in

essence) then this leads to an unfulfilled life, with its consequent frustrations and mental


The discussions that follow are concerned with coming to a valid conclusion regarding

self-identity, and then learning to operate from this level of being. This is to be achieved purely

by investigating our existence, which comprises an unending stream of moment-to-moment

experiences from birth to death. Even during sleep there is experience of dreams and

sensations. If a sensation becomes strong enough it will wake one up. This investigation

requires no dogma or belief systems, and these need to be put aside for the investigation to


The author, who had spent over thirty years in various Christian, Hindu and Yogic practices,

only progressed (had the first real 'awakening') when he abandoned these and entered a deep

investigation of the question 'Who am I?'. The appendix contains an account of this

questioning, the experiences that it produced, and the insights that it revealed. The appendix

also shows how the experiences, which resulted from the direct recognition of true self-identity,

related back to the preceding belief system of the author. However, although these beliefs

colour the experiences that follow the direct recognition, they are of no use in the investigation


This is not to say that the religions of the world do not point to this same realization and chapter

19 attempts to show how they all do this in their own way. The problem is that the truth of this

realization is so incredibly simple, one could say obvious, that the various religious traditions

have been unable to accept such simplicity; so their followers, and commentators, have

overlaid this simplicity with many levels of dogma, beliefs and philosophical systems.

Chapter 1 is devoted to a general discussion of the various problems associated with

misidentifying oneself as an object, such as: self-obsession, self-loathing, selfishness,

self-aggrandizement, self-importance, etc. The list is almost endless. This chapter also sets

the framework for the investigations of those that follow, many of which read as if they are

meditations or contemplations, which is exactly what they are. These stem directly from the

author's direct investigations over a twelve year period since his first 'awakening'. They are

given as pointers and aids for the reader's own investigations into, and contemplations on, the

problem of self-identity. There is necessarily some duplication between them as what is being

discussed is so simple. They are different 'takes' on the same simplicity, presenting the

material in various ways whilst building upon what has been discovered, so some repetition is

unavoidable. It should also be noted that each of these are, as far as is possible, stand-alone

meditations or contemplations, thus needing to make sense by themselves. Therefore some

sections of each will contain similar passages, so that they are relatively complete when read

in isolation.

Chapter 2 gives the basic format for investigating one's direct moment-to-moment experience

and is the basis for the chapters that follow. Chapter 3 was written on a seven day solitary

retreat of investigation, meditation and contemplation in 2000. It represents the author's first

attempt to discuss, in writing, the problem of self-identity, and has been published as a

stand-alone pamphlet. Chapters 4 to 13 are further meditations and contemplations, each

delving deeper into the nature of self-identity and 'reality'. Chapter 14 details how to live from

the level of self-identity that has been discovered and the benefits of this. Chapter 15 highlights

the importance of committing to this level to access the full potential of 'awakening'. Chapter 16

discusses this 'full potential' and shows how this truly is 'the end of anxiety and mental

suffering'. Chapter 17 shows how humanity could live together in perfect peace and harmony

by the realization of this deeper level of self-identity and the nature of reality, which have been

revealed by one's investigations. Chapter 18 considers how living from this deeper level of

self-identity makes life so enjoyable that no extra purpose or meaning is necessary. Chapter

19 studies how the religions of the world describe the Absolute Reality and compares this with

what is discovered through direct investigation into the nature of moment-to-moment

experience. It also shows how mystics of each religion have arrived at the same conclusion.

Chapter 20 shows how two seemingly opposing concepts of self-identity - 'essential self' and

'no essential self' - can ultimately lead to the same conclusion that is discovered by direct

investigation of experience. It is a fairly detailed discussion of the Hindu and Buddhist

concepts of self-identity, and it compares the various ideas that these religions contain. In

simple language it offers an introductory insight into these two major world religions and may

be useful for 'non-dualists' who regard the word 'Self' as the 'essential self' and are somewhat

unhappy about the phrase 'separate self'. Chapter 21 shows how the discoveries made by

direct investigation of experience tally with those given in the fourth chapter of The Tibetan

Book of the Dead , 'Self-Liberation Through Seeing with Naked Awareness'.

Chapter One

The Problem

A general discussion on the problem of identifying oneself as an individual object in a

universe of multiple objects. It also sets the framework for the investigations that follow which

reveal a deeper level of being than that of thoughts and sensations.

For most of us much of our waking time is spent in obsessive thinking about 'ourselves' and

our relationships with other people. This is especially true when we are not working, using our

minds in a productive activity; or when we are not relaxing in such a way that engages the mind

such as reading a book, playing a game or watching a screen. For the mind is akin to an

onboard-computer which is a wonderful tool for problem-solving, information storing retrieval

and processing, and evaluating the data provided by our senses. However, when it is not fully

utilized it tends to search for other problems to solve, and if these are not presently available it

tends to speculate about the future, delve into the past, or imagine in the present, creating

non-existent problems which it then tries to solve!

Most people tend to identify with their mind, rather than seeing it as a tool, which creates

myriad problems. This causes everything to be seen through the filter of the mind: its opinions,

judgements, and self-interest. When this happens we cease to see things as they really are

which lessens our ability to relate to the world in a natural healthy way. Imagine the problems it

would cause if your computer decided that it was 'you' and coloured all the information it

retrieved from the internet with its own arbitrary opinions and judgements. In this case you

would be unable to rely on any of this information, and if you did then any decisions made using

this would be liable to be faulty.

In the above example 'you' are obviously not the computer but the perceiver of the data

provided by the computer and all of its multimedia functionality. In the same way, we have a

deeper level of being than the mind (thoughts and mental images) and body (physical

sensations), which is also the perceiver of this 'data'. However, when we identify at the surface

level of mind/body we are unaware of this and tend to suffer due to the shortcomings of our

mind/body. This is akin to suffering because our computer is not the most up-to-date, fastest

attractive model available.

This is exactly what most of us do, worrying about our body-image and mental capacity and

ability. We tend to expand our concept of self-identity to include an imaginary self-image

consisting of our physical appearance, mental ability, status, occupation, position in society,

family situation, achievements, lack of achievements, ambitions, hopes, fears, memories and

projections into the future. Not only do we consider this to be who or what we are, and

continually obsess about this, but we also spend large periods of time comparing this with the

equally erroneous images we have formed of other people we relate to.

So we have identified ourselves as an imaginary object, in a universe of separate objects,

which we then compare with other imaginary objects! This is bound to lead to confusion,

suffering and an increased feeling of separation, which is exacerbated by the fact that we do

not even see these other objects as they actually are, but as we imagine them to be through the

filter of our mind's opinions, judgements and self-interest.

To free ourselves from this nightmarish scenario and the continual obsession with the

'separate self' we imagine ourselves to be, we need to connect with the deeper level of our

being as the 'subject' rather than an 'object', where we are the perceiver of our thoughts and

sensations. This level is ever-present as there is continual awareness of our thoughts and

sensations. Whilst we identify with the mind this level is overlooked; the mind continues the

vicious circle of obsessive thinking by processing these thoughts and sensations and relating

them to the imaginary self-image that it has concocted.

However, we can easily escape from this vicious circle by simply investigating the nature and

relationship of these thoughts and sensations and our awareness of them. When this is fully

accomplished we discover that, at the deepest level, we are the perceiver of these thoughts

and sensations. These are just ephemeral objects which come and go, leaving the perceiver

totally unaffected, in the same way that the sky is unaffected by the clouds which scud across it,

or the ocean is undisturbed by the waves and swells that appear on its surface.

This is what this book is designed to achieve, to take one beyond the 'separate self' we have

imagined ourselves to be. In this we discover that most of our worries have no foundation for

they are just the mind projecting into the future, wallowing in the past, or obsessing over the

imaginary self-image it has conjured up. Once the mind is put in its place - as the servant and

not the master - we start to see things as they truly are, and to recognize not only the deeper

level of being within ourselves but also to recognize this in those around us. Then we see that

our self-image and the images we have created of other people are all just illusions. At this

deeper level we relate to others in a much more loving, wholesome way, for it becomes clear

that there is in fact no separation between ourselves and others, as at this level we share the

same constant conscious subjective presence.

This is not a question of belief or imagination but of discovery by direct investigation, and for

this to be effective we need to put aside all belief systems and acquired knowledge concerning

who we are at the underlying level beyond thoughts and sensations. The only knowledge of this

that is valid is that which is revealed to each one of us by direct experience. The easiest way

for this direct experience to occur is by enquiring into the nature of experience itself, and for

this enquiry to be effective we need to start from the position of believing and knowing nothing.

The chapters that follow are aids to this enquiry, and as such should not just be read and

intellectually considered but need to be taken slowly, step by step, not moving onto the next

step until one fully 'sees' the step that is being considered. This does not mean to say that one

needs to agree with each statement, as any investigation is personal, but one needs to

understand what is being said. They map the author's own investigations, over a twelve-year

period, and are given in the order in which they occurred. They each stem directly from a

prolonged period of meditation and contemplation, and chart a growing understanding, through

experiencing and seeing, of the nature of reality and our place within it. As such they need to

be taken in the order given, as each one builds on what has been 'seen' in the preceding

chapters. Also to get the most out of each chapter one needs to spend some time

contemplating it until one 'feels' what it is pointing to; if a chapter is just read without due

attention then its significance may well be missed. If, however, the reader becomes somewhat

impatient because they truly feel that they have 'got' what is being offered, then they can go on

to chapter 14 'So What … What Now?', and return to the earlier unread chapters, when and as

they wish. It would be unadvisable to do this until one has finished chapter 4 'The Perceiver Not

the Perceived'.

Before starting we need to discuss the nature of awareness itself. It is obvious that we would

not 'know' (be aware of) our own perceptions without awareness being present. This does not

mean that we are always conscious of each one of them, as this is dictated by where we put

our attention, or upon what we focus our mind. However, all sensations detected by the body

are there in awareness, and we can readily become conscious of them by turning our attention

to them. It is also true that our thoughts and mental images immediately appear in awareness,

but these require less attention to be seen as they occur in the mind itself. So awareness is

like the screen on which all of our thoughts and sensations appear, and the mind becomes

conscious of these by focusing on them. Take, for example, what happens when you open your

eyes and look at a beautiful view: everything seen immediately appears in awareness, but for

the mind to make anything of this it needs to focus upon certain elements of what is seen.

'There is an amazing tree', 'wow look at that eagle', 'what a stunning sky', etc. To be sure, you

may just make a statement like 'what a beautiful view', but this does not in itself say much and

is so self-evident as to be not worth saying!

The point is that the mind is a tool for problem-solving, information storing, retrieval and

processing, and evaluating the data provided by our senses. It achieves this by focusing on

specific sensations, thoughts or mental images that are present in awareness, and

'processing' these. In fact we only truly see 'things as they are' when they are not seen through

the filter of the mind, and this occurs when what is encountered is able to 'stop the mind'. For

instance we have all had glimpses of this at various times in our lives, often when seeing a

beautiful sunset, a waterfall or some other wonderful natural phenomenon. These may seem

other-worldly or intensely vivid, until the mind kicks in with any evaluation when everything

seems to return to 'normal'. In fact nature is much more vivid and alive when directly perceived,

and the more we identify with the 'perceiver', as awareness itself, the more frequently we see

things 'as they are'.

However, as long as we identify with our imaginary self-image we are always trying to better

ourselves, achieve more - knowledge, possessions, power, fame, etc. - polish this self-image

and generally build ourselves up. This tends to make us live in the future and stops us living fully

in the present moment. The other side of this coin is to live in regret as to what might have

been, self-loathing, melancholy or nostalgia and yearning for the past. This, once again, stops

us seeing 'what is' here and now, either by making us live in the past or by the mind spinning

on our failures and lack of self-worth.

The following chapters are aids in the investigation of one's moment-to-moment experience.

These are designed to enable you to discover this deeper level of being where you are truly the

'perceiver' not the 'perceived'.

The Author – A short spiritual biography

I was born into a strict, but joyful, Methodist family. From the ages of 11-17 I was sent to a

Methodist boarding school, which I left with the conviction that organized Christianity was not

for me. I could see that what Christ said about living was wonderful, but that the church did not

really promote his teachings rather concentrating on him as our ‘saviour’ and on the

purportedly ‘miraculous’ facets of his life. It was also very apparent that many so called

Christians were not interested in practicing what he taught. This was now 1965 and living in

central London during the years of flower-power  I experimented with various hallucinogens,

finding them very beneficial for opening my subconscious which allowed years of conditioning

to pour out. This left me feeling totally ‘cleansed’ and unburdened, ready to start life anew in a

spirit of investigation as to the nature of reality. The psychedelic states also presaged, gave a

glimpse of, mystical states which I suspected were attainable through spiritual practices. I then

embarked on a study of Gurdjieff  and Ouspensky which I found absolutely fascinating and was

convinced that self-realization was the purpose of life. However they made the process sound

so onerous that (being young, foot-loose and fancy-free) I decided to shelve the whole project


It was not until eight years later that I resumed the spiritual search when Janet (my partner)

introduced me to my first yoga-teacher, Matthew O’Malveny, who inspired us by quoting

passages from the Upanishads, Dhammapada, and other scriptures during the class. He also

emphasized the importance of relaxation and meditation. There followed a few years of

investigating various spiritual paths including a prolonged dalliance with the Brahma Kumaris

(Raja Yoga) whose meditations were wonderful, but whose dogma was very hard to take. We

then moved into the country to start a pottery and immersed ourselves in Satyananda Yoga, an

organization which had no dogma but taught a wide range of yogic practices. We were both

initiated into karma sannyas by Swami Satyananda and adopted a yogic lifestyle consisting of

asanas, pranayama, yoga nidra, meditation, kirtan and vegetarianism.

During this time I was at a silent retreat when I happened to pick up a volume entitled

The Gospel of Ramakrishna which introduced me to this amazing being who practiced many

spiritual paths, within Hinduism and also Islam and Christianity, discovering that they all lead to

the same result. He was then approached by many devotees from these various paths all of

whom he was able to teach in their own path, whilst emphasizing the harmony of religions. A

few years later I was lucky enough to find an erudite nun in the Sarada Ramakrishna Order,

based in Sydney, who initiated me into the worship of this amazing being. This entailed

two to three hours of daily meditation, japa (mantra repetition) during daily activities, reading

every word said by or written about him, including daily readings of The Gospel of Sri

Ramakrishna, and chanting. I continued this sadhana quite happily for ten years.

I then encountered a disciple of Sri Ramana Maharshi, Gangaji, who said ‘Stop! Be still, you

are already That’. The message being that the effort and search were masking that which is

always present; all that was required was to ‘stop’ and see what is always here. After many

years of struggle and effort this news came like a breath of fresh air and I glimpsed the

essence, that undeniable ever-present reality. This was followed by a seven day silent retreat

which resulted in my first ‘awakening’, and also in an ecstasy that slowly faded over the

following year.

This book came about from the realisation that occurred then and has matured over the

following 12 years. During this time I wrote a series of articles, for an e-mail news group,

based on my meditations and contemplations, around which this book is based. At the same

time I have also completed an honours degree in comparative religion and philosophy, using

the insights gained by my spiritual practices to inform my essays. Some of these essays have

been adapted to include as chapters in  this book.

View the book's Index as a Word document

$8 in .pdf format. Download now.

Beyond the 'Separate Self'

The End of Anxiety and Mental Suffering

A Simple Guide to Awakening

Based on the Meditations, Contemplations, and Experiences
of Forty Years of Spiritual Search and Practice

by Colin Drake

Copyright 2009 by Colin Drake. All rights reserved. Publications

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