What is Nonduality? The Nature of Reality.
There has been a lot of talk recently about nonduality and it being the ultimate truth of reality. I’d like to share my understanding and experience on this topic because I believe that a deep realization of this meaning can cause one to attain remarkable insight into the underlying fabric of the whole universe, ultimately setting us free from confusion and ignorance. Let’s get straight into it.
What is duality?
The best place to start when talking about nonduality is to first understand what duality is. In our experience of life, we cognize the external world through our senses (eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and body), and then attach feelings, thoughts, and perceptions onto them in our mind. Duality deals with these mental labels, describing whether something is hot or cold, pleasant or unpleasant, right or wrong, good or bad, and everything in between.
Duality is the recognition that one label cannot exist without its opposite. For example, cold is only cold when compared to something hot. If the same cold object was compared to something much colder, it may no longer be cold in comparison. The same applies to all characteristics such as beautiful and ugly, rich and poor, success and failure, etc. None of these terms exists inherently but relies on comparison to make sense.
The implications of duality.
Understanding that all concepts are dualistic, we learn to observe the true nature of forms and things in the universe. A sun is only big and hot when comparing to our solar system, but on the cosmic scale, is small and insignificant. A man is only poor and unsuccessful when comparing to others around him, but if compared to people a hundred years ago, the same man may be described to be very affluent and fortunate.
We learn to realize that descriptions and characteristics only make sense in certain contexts, with specific parameters, but, in reality, they are mere illusions. There is no such thing as objectively good or right, beautiful, or successful. They are just words and labels. Why this is an important realization is because often, our emotional states vary depending on our perceptions of things.
Duality Influences our Emotional States
If something happens that we label as good or pleasant, we feel happy. If something happens that we interpret as bad or unpleasant, we feel unhappy. Continuing on from this, if we label our happiness as good, we cling to it, chase it, and attach to it. If we label unhappy as bad, we are repulsed by it and so enter a vicious downward spiral where discontent fuels more negative states that spiral out of control. Both these scenarios trap up in a compulsive state which greatly restricts our sense of peace and freedom.
Understanding duality means realizing that all states, perceptions, and characteristics are merely dualistic concepts that don’t have any real intrinsic nature. We should observe good things against the backdrop of bad things, and perceive beautiful things against the background of ugliness. When we conceptualize about one thing, we actually bring in the entire duality, because nothing exists independently. Nothing makes sense on its own.
What is Nonduality?
If everything makes sense up to now, we can further our understanding on a deeper level by introducing nonduality. The dualistic world is the world of form, matter, and things and represents the obvious world we continually experience. But duality is also a dualistic concept because this is the nature of concepts; they are all relative. So what is the other side of duality? What makes duality a possibility? The answer is nonduality.
Duality and nonduality are not different, but two sides of the same coin. This is the way we should perceive everything in the universe. We experience the world with all its colors, fragrances, and movements, knowing that they only exist against the background of nonduality, emptiness, voidness.
A more direct way to understand this concept is to perceive all dualities against its negative. So instead of seeing good against bad, we see good against non-good. We see a chair against non-chair. We see ourselves against non-self. We see the universe against non-universe. This requires deeper contemplation to make sense because it requires us to completely shake up our perception of the universe at its fundamental levels.
By understanding nonduality this way, we don’t argue for or against the existence or validity of anything, because we realize that they are not separate things. The universe exists because of no-universe, or emptiness. And emptiness also exists because of all form. In this context, emptiness is used to replace all the negatives of a thing.
Abiding in the realization of nonduality.
This teaching of nonduality has very strong roots in Zen, Yoga, Buddism, and Meditation, and describes the state of flow one can achieve in everyday life if they can experience the totality of life through the lens of nonduality. In this teaching, emptiness is just as real as form, and neither form nor emptiness is any more attractive than the other because they are not different. The same is said about pleasant states and unpleasant states, positive and negative states. A person who truly penetrates this truth would not prefer any state over another because states are not different, but inclusive states.
The sense of self eventually dissolves because it is perceived in the same way as everything else, through the lens of nonduality. This state of complete transcendence of dualistic bondages and discriminations is referred to as Nirvana, Enlightenment, Awakening, Kingdom of Heaven, depending on the religious context, but they all mean the same thing.
‘What is nonduality?’ is a question that cannot be comprehended through mere thinking about it, but requires internal experiencing to truly understand. This is because thinking about nonduality is still labeling it as a concept without truly realizing it. However, contemplation serves a very powerful purpose in helping one understand it logically and through reason. Eventually, one knows without thinking about it, and that’s when one awakens to the nature of the mind, self, and universe.
What are your thoughts on nonduality? Please share your ideas with us below!
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