What is Nonduality?

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. They do not necessarily purport to reflect the opinions or views of the The Yogi Press.


The mind is impressionable, conditioned, and likes to latch onto new ideas. Nonduality is one of these ideas, and a lot of people are now using the term. By the looks of articles, videos, and the lecture circuit, you would think the world is chock-full of enlightened sages. Many people have become very pleased with themselves and their ability to experience nonduality. And here is where the problem lies: Every experience requires an experiencer, and this is an example of duality. Nonduality is a silly word that has no meaning at all except to the mind that enjoys taking credit for a perceived superpower and elevated status. I realize this first paragraph is sure to raise a lot of cackles, but it’s the truth about the workings of the egoic mind.

I have to repeat this one idea, because it is central to this discussion: The mind splits the singular, total movement of consciousness into an experience and an experiencer. To say “I experience nonduality” is an example of duality, and proof that you are in duality.

The totality of all that exists, occurs, and manifests is within universal consciousness. The singular, persistent, uninterrupted totality of all that is. The mind, incapable of beholding this totality, fragments universal consciousness to make its contents known. In quantum physics there is a term for this: collapse. Out of the potentiality of total consciousness, the mind collapses totality into knowable reality and the manifestation of all that appears to comprise what we call existence. The mind creates reality — the dualistic existence that is made up of opposites and complements, cold and hot, tall and short, black and white, and even the ideas of duality and nonduality. This is apparent to one who can simply realize that he or she is nothing except for the unexplainable, unlimited capacity for all that exists.

The mind fragments total consciousness into pieces for very practical reasons, chief of which is to navigate the world. The mind is the tool for discrimination, discernment, knowledge, memory, problem-solving, experience, and so on.

The one and only mind you “have” becomes conditioned since birth, and we call it “me,” “I,” the center, the persona, the egoic self, the egoic mind, and other terms. It is this conditioned mind that gives rise to the idea that we are individuals separate from all else — nature, other people, objects, phenomena, and the environment. The mind, conditioned or not, is geared to define things, solve problems, make differentiations, and consider that there is an “other.” The conditioned mind judges, criticizes, fantasizes, daydreams, dreams, gets angry, becomes attached, experiences greed, craves sex, and so on. Plus, the conditioned mind is the seat of all desire, and desire causes all suffering. Desire exists because the conditioned mind makes us think we are incomplete and need to obtain or attain something to become complete. But, as consciousness we actually already are complete. The mind is ignorant, so it keeps on chasing its dreams.

How does duality fit into this picture of the conditioned mind?

As long as you we perceiving anything, it is in duality. As long as we see or know, and use any sense and/or the mind, then there is duality. Nonduality is an idea forwarded by people who do not understand what underlies all of reality, and the idea is created by the conditioned mind. When people say they live in, or experience, nonduality, this is because they do not know what they are at the core.

If we were truly in nonduality, we would not be aware of it. Because we live in this world of expression and thought arising out of consciousness, we are in duality. On the other hand, in deep, deep sleep there is nonduality. Also, when there is a complete and utter dissolution of the self, including not only mind, but also body and all else, then there is nonduality. But it is not until the mind returns from this stateless state that it knows there was nonduality. However, the mind cannot in the least explain what it is like. This is because language and communication require imagery and complementary reference points that can only exist in duality.

All descriptions and experiences absolutely require duality. If we were in nonduality we would not know it, so those walking around claiming that they are in a nondual state are either deceiving others, deceiving themselves, deluded, or not serious. They certainly are not the awakened beings they claim to be.

If one were to be walking around in nonduality then one would walk into traffic, fall down the stairs, never eat, not see or hear anything, unable to communicate, and on and on. There is no mind or thinking involved in nonduality.

The mind loves to be special

The conditioned mind — the egoic self — wants to be satisfied with its accomplishments; and this is a trap that keeps one from awakening (another word that has become bastardised as of late). It is absurd to claim you are enlightened, in full awareness, in nonduality, or any other such thing, because there is no “one” who is enlightened or experiencing nonduality. The sense of self does not actually exist because it is a belief made of an accretion of thoughts. A belief cannot become enlightened or in nonduality. And, consciousness is already whole, so it cannot become anything at all.

As a reminder, experience of every kind requires duality. This is because an experience requires that there is an experiencer, and this is an example of duality.

The person who considers him or herself to be in a state of nonduality is going around in circles. This is the egoic self at work, unable to know what is beyond knowledge and unable to see what cannot be seen.

Nonduality is an idea akin to the idea of enlightenment or being awake. These are no more than ideas created by the conditioned egoic self. As long as there is anything visual, audible, kinaesthetic, odiferous, experienceable, tangible, knowable, memorable, or measurable, then it is not nonduality. There is no “I” in nonduality (except in the spelling of the word).


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