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The Non-Duality Trap – William Wildblood [Random Viewpoints]

There was a time when I would unreservedly have described myself as a partisan of non-duality. Today I regard it as potentially one of the more misleading forms of spirituality though I still believe it describes the basic truth of the universe. What has changed in my outlook?

What has changed is the fact that so many people now embrace (or even teach) non-duality in a form that would not have been recognized by its originators in India (Note: non-duality is found in many places but I take the Indian version as the principal source of the doctrine). So it is not non-duality that is the problem. That remains as pure truth. It is the distorted version of those who think themselves in the vanguard of spirituality but who dispense with God because of what can only be called lack of humility and intellectual arrogance. What these people don’t appreciate is that you should come to non-duality as the basis of your approach to God and the universe only after having fully traversed duality. For duality is real. It may not be the ultimate reality but ultimate reality comes only at the end.

Non-duality is a step beyond duality but that does not mean that it completely replaces it. Non-duality says that all is one. The division between spirit and matter is false, and you are pure undivided consciousness. All this is absolutely true, and actually pretty easy to understand as a concept and even to attain as an experience in meditation or, at least, to imagine one has attained. However what is equally true is that the duality of the soul and its Creator is a real one, even if it must eventually be transcended. But, and this is what is at issue, you won’t transcend it by denying it, rejecting it or pretending that it is not there. You must fully acknowledge it and all it implies, and then go beyond it. That’s the only way, and those who are encouraged to bypass the traditional approach, which is founded on wisdom and insight, by teachers of half-truths who lack these things, even if they have an intellectual grasp of that of which they teach, are being misled. Worse, they are being sidetracked from the true path and their spiritual development delayed.

Erik Söderberg | Digital Art | Retouch

You are pure awareness.

Such a simple statement to make, but how do you transcend the duality of subject and object and know yourself to be pure awareness? Not just by thinking so, that’s certain. And is pure awareness all you are? Because if not then maybe it’s not sufficient to take that, and that alone, as the basis of your spiritual practice.

One of the Masters’ simplest but most profound sayings was ‘Remember the Creator’. This is something non-dualists of the modern Western variety frequently fail to do. Usually brought up in one of the monotheistic religions, or a society still heavily influenced by that, they are eager to throw off their cultural baggage, which they perceive as outworn (and I am not saying that it is not in many ways), but they still crave some form of spirituality. A non-dualistic belief system fits the bill because, in its trivialized version, it makes relatively few demands of the lower self, and does not require one to bend the knee or incline the head. But spirituality without a recognition of a higher power is a temptation to be avoided, though very attractive to the ego that always wants to reap the benefits of spirituality without giving itself up. The true non-dualist always remembers the Creator (though he may not phrase it exactly like that) because he knows that he is part of God. For the false non-dualist it is the other way around. He is pure consciousness.

The Masters told me that prayer was essential for the spiritual aspirant, even the most advanced. Prayer is how you remember the Creator, and only if you remember Him can you even begin to approach His level. If you don’t reach His level, how can you possibly go beyond Him? Does the modern non-dualist pray? If not, why not? Here’s what the Masters said to me on the subject. Do you think yourself above prayer? Even the greatest saints prayed and, while meditation is necessary, you need the humbling experience of prayer also.

The great danger for the non-dualist is that he creates a mental version of ‘pure awareness’ and then bases his behavior on conformity to that. Right there you have duality. The idea and the attempt to become that idea. This leads nowhere except illusion to begin with, and falseness and hypocrisy if you persist in that illusion. Even if you experience what seems to be a non-dualistic state in meditation you must remember that any experience is always interpreted by the mind which is the very source of psychological division.

I think the problem is that many contemporary non-dualists and their teachers fail to grasp the distinction between soul and spirit. The soul is the individual consciousness, the spiritual self that remains on the higher planes when you incarnate (what the Masters described to me as the greater part of you), and it is that we should try to attune ourselves to in meditation. We cannot go beyond it, to the level of pure formlessness, until we have become one with it. If we try, well we all know what happens when you try to run before you can walk. But that is precisely what many modern non-dualist teachers are advising us to do. What is more some of them also seek to transcend the duality of the material world by, in effect, denying that it (the material world) exists. But it does exist and, let me repeat, you do not go beyond something by denying it. These teachers and their acolytes will have to come back to the physical world in a later lifetime and fully integrate both matter and spirit if they continue with their error. You cannot avoid the lessons of maya by denying her. She is not illusion. She is the Divine Mother who allows the formless Father to manifest. Without Her we would never have come into being.

I said in an earlier post that I am not a Christian in the strict sense but when Christ said no one comes to the Father except through me, he was speaking the exact truth. In one way he may have been talking about the chain of initiation that stretches from master to disciple and which cannot be circumvented, but he was also saying that you cannot know the Father (pure spirit, the uncreated world of formlessness) except through the Son which is the individual soul. You must bring the soul to perfection (symbolized by the Transfiguration) before you are ready for the crucifixion which is the necessary initiation before you can ‘go to the Father’. Thus the knowledge of non-duality can only come through the full experience of duality.

Nothing I say here is meant as a criticism of non-dualistic teaching in its traditional setting where it formed part of a whole and found its place as the culmination of a spiritual teaching. It is only when it is taken out of context and taught in isolation from its parent religion that it loses touch with reality. The flower will only bloom on the end of the stalk. If you cut it off it may still look beautiful for a while but it is losing its vitality and will soon be dead.

 

William WildbloodWilliam Wildblood was born in London in 1955. After a period working as an antiques dealer, he left the U.K. He ran a guesthouse in South India for several years and then another in France where he was also an occasional guide at the medieval abbey of le Mont Saint-Michel.

He returned to England at the end of the 20th century since when he has worked for BBC magazines in various capacities, including seven years as an antiques columnist.

Meeting the Masters

 

*Photography / Montage (Galaxy photo from NASA’s archive).

33 responses

  1. A short exchange on William’s blog is what initially inspired us to feature this writing. A reader brought up that:

    “Some [modern] teachers often spend most of their time on dissolving the sense of self and seeking to be pure awareness and knowing.

    Most acknowledge that identification with the timeless awareness is just the beginning but say little about what lies beyond this. And that it feels very incomplete , as if one is left hanging upside down. It seems that most people who attend and ask questions are seeking a solution for problems in their bodymind and the importance of the world and our life within time and space is acknowledged but not developed. Attractive at first it soon feels like a dead end where one might be left hanging, directionless.”

    William responded by saying: “For many [modern] teachers the saying ‘a little knowledge is a dangerous thing’ springs to mind. They may be sincere and well-meaning but they often don’t seem to appreciate sufficiently that non-duality must be grounded in traditional spiritual practices such as prayer and the submission of personal will to divine will if it is to mean anything. Otherwise it can easily just lead to the mind copying its conception of truth.”

    ///

    What are YOUR thoughts on this? ~CMK

    January 31, 2014 at 6:47 pm

  2. I profoundly disagree with the sentiments expressed here. They rove about between different levels of consciousness willy-nilly, without any real appreciation of the differences which matter so much in practice. As I have argued in detail elsewhere, the Subtle is not the Causal, and the Causal is not the Nondual.

    February 1, 2014 at 12:10 am

    • Very true, the subtle is not the causal etc, but isn’t that the point? You exist on all those levels and must acknowledge them in your spiritual practice. You can’t just bypass them. But you seem to be implying that so I’m not quite sure where we disagree.

      February 1, 2014 at 11:57 am

  3. Genevieve Davis

    Very good. I agree with what you are saying about duality and non-duality William.
    Thanks!

    February 1, 2014 at 6:09 am

  4. Ed Kelly

    William, it seems you are intent on keeping the lid on, worried that we will get too wild and crazy with all this non-dual business. You seem to think that there is actually somebody making these decisions and getting saved or lost, just as you are worried that we might forget about these masters that you believe in. You are clearly convinced that we are separate entities that need your guidance and the guidance of your masters. Can there be more than one infinite, eternal consciousness? That’s the point of non-duality, we are the totality already. You interpret this statement to mean that it is the person, the separate self that believes it is the totality and this is dangerous. Non-duality is dangerous but only to the imaginary separate self. It is like the moth to the flame, all the moth wants is the flame and it can only have it if it dies. It is just the belief in the imaginary separate self that dies. It is only a belief, a thought that are born and will die. What are you trying to save? Can’t you hear yourself speaking like the preachers of old reminding us to get right with Jesus that we need the church for our salvation. Your stern rebuke of non-dual teaching is based in nothing less than fear, based in the belief in the individual soul. You might as well be talking about sin and damnation. We don’t need these disciplining admonishments any longer. Love and freedom are the only measures of truth.

    February 2, 2014 at 12:16 am

  5. Ed Kelly

    There is the worry here that we will left adrift, that having understood that we are awareness our anchors in religion and society will be lost and life will become meaningless. All this means is that we have taken a tentative half step, and adopted just another belief, in this case that we are awareness, and then believe that our lives have become empty. It is only empty to the separate self who is looking for confirmation in it’s old habitual, conditioned patterns of thinking and feeling. The separate self only wants to survive and can only do so in the modalities it knows. The separate self is, in fact, made of these modalities. It is not really an entity, the separate self is merely the activity of thinking and feeling. So, we can’t just adopt new forms of the old separate self conditioning and expect to find our innate freedom. Peace, Happiness, Love and Freedom is at the heart of life itself. We have never been separated from this truth of our being, except in thought. Replacing one belief with another will do nothing. And more to the point of this blog, reverting to the old beliefs of ascended masters who we must look to for guidance and salvation is just more of the same. It is only the separate self that conjures other entities that it believes can save it. This is always been what religion has been selling. The message here is that we need religion to get free, but we are and always have been freedom itself. If this is not yet your understanding and experience don’t blame non-duality, continue to explore your experience with a teacher who knows and lives this reality.

    February 2, 2014 at 1:47 am

    • I don’t fundamentally disagree with what you say, Ed, but where are you saying it from? Forgive me, but is it just the thinking and feeling separate self denying its own existence? It’s a question of a practical approach to something we may intellectually assent to but have not yet realized.

      It’s not that easy to dismiss the separate self. You have to make it transparent before you can see through it.

      But anyway the article was not about genuine non-duality. It was about the versions that have cropped up over the last 2 or 3 decades which ignore the fact that duality is real. It’s just only relatively real.

      February 2, 2014 at 5:59 am

      • Ed Kelly

        We don’t need to make the separate self transparent, William, but just see that it has already been transparent, empty, non-existent. There is only one self of awareness. This is your difficulty, still believing that you need to haul around the separate self and it’s practices and beliefs which is just so much baggage. The imaginary separate self has created it all. We don’t need to have an agenda with any of it, and we certainly do not need your judgment or the judgement of your ascended masters of our readiness or degree of transparency. That’s just more of the dream, William. We are already love and freedom itself.

        February 2, 2014 at 8:54 am

  6. Ed Kelly

    But you are right, it is not just an intellectual shift that brings the end of the separate self. This is just the tip of the iceberg, but the tip that eventually brings the whole super structure of the separate self’s imaginary world crashing down. For most it is not done in one flash but requires a much deeper exploration of the beliefs and feelings which veils our experience of the mind, body and world. Jettisoning those beliefs based in separateness and fear is the first essential step seen in the direct realization of our essential nature as the open, empty presence of awareness. This does not require 30 years of meditation and practice, it is our ever-present experience, right now for all of us. We have always been this transparency. All experience is the knowing of it and that knowing is yourself, the only self that is. But you believe that you have to hold onto the separate self’s beliefs while the separate self or soul goes through this process of purification. Nothing could be further from the truth or more contradictory and self defeating. When we see that we are the transparency of awareness, then every step we take is in love and freedom rather than being driven by the separate self’s belief that it is an arduous process requiring the intervention of higher powers and the baggage of religious traditions. In the light of love and freedom we move quite simply from the belief that we are something to the wisdom we are nothing to the realization that we are everything.

    February 2, 2014 at 10:32 am

    • What you say is true but who is saying it? Where we differ, I think, is that for you reality is the absolute only but for me it is the absolute and the relative together. I think that God and the individual soul (as distinct from the separate self or ego) exist, and you won’t go beyond them by denying them. The universal can only be known through the individual. That’s why we have this whole world of maya.

      You speak of love and freedom, but if non-duality were the only truth, and there was nothing else, those words would have no meaning.

      But never mind, as I’m sure you’ll agree, this is all just wind on the water. See you in the beyond!

      February 2, 2014 at 1:42 pm

      • Ed Kelly

        William, you keep making assertions that are based in a classical misunderstanding that has brought so many religions into existence. Absolute and relative, universal and individual are not together, ‘they’ are one or not-two, Advaita. I am not denying anything in this conversation certainly not about God that is the one consciousness that we all are. Maya is the appearance of things, reality is its transparency. Form is formlessness. Just because we use words like Love and Freedom to describe this reality does not mean they cannot point to the truth of our Being which is our direct, ever-present, dimensionless, unnamable experience, right here and now. How could the absolute be otherwise? We are without beginning or end, neither appearing nor disappearing. If you believe that the so-called soul and God have separate and distinct realities, and there is an ordained pathway to follow for one to know the other then you do not understand non-duality, especially if you believe that it is something to be attained at the end of what you define as our relative lives, beyond; if this is your belief then we can’t say much more here. Perhaps Ramana said it best:

        “A man does not have to go and find where his
        eyes are in order to see. The heart is there,
        always open to you, if you care to enter it,
        always supporting your movements, although you
        may be unaware of it. It is perhaps more
        correct to say that the Self is the Heart. Really
        the Self is the centre and is everywhere aware
        of itself as the Heart or Self-awareness.”

        Hard to find a better statement of what God is. As Meister Eckhart said,

        “The eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God see me.”

        WIth love,

        Ed

        February 2, 2014 at 7:01 pm

        • As I said before, this article was not so much about non-duality as about contemporary misrepresentations of it. Unfortunately non-duality is very easy to understand on a theoretical level but true realisation is the hardest thing there is. If you think there’s no spiritual path because everything is right here now I would say you are both right and wrong, and that difference makes all the difference.

          Anyhow, thanks for taking the time to discuss these matters, Ed, but I think we’ll just have to agree to disagree for the time being. I don’t think our points of disagreement are as wide as it might appear though.

          all the best

          William

          February 3, 2014 at 8:06 am

  7. William, I appreciate what you point out regarding the truncated version of nonduality going around these days. As I see it, many nondualists miss noticing the difference between the ego self and individuality. They attempt to jump from ego self to the so-called “absolute,” which turns out to be a fabricated simulation. There are also many superficial assertions of this or that not existing that sound profound, but are just intellectual flak, at best incomplete, that fly in the face of experience. I think many nondualists would do well to get out of the intellect. I’m not against exhausting the intellect, but the problem is that many nondualists get stuck there, forever spinning their wheels, unable to distinguish between intellect and the wholeness of their being. That is what their version of nonduality turns out to be for them. The cure for this is a return to utter honesty. The truncated versions of nonduality also leave many ungrounded, directionless, hollow, confused, and disappointed. This is a call for maturity in teachers, which takes discernment to discover, not so much from the intellect, but from the heart.

    February 10, 2014 at 9:24 pm

    • Thanks Roland. That’s just what I was trying to say only better put!

      February 20, 2014 at 9:24 am

  8. Pingback: The Non-Duality Trap : A Dialogue | NEEV Forum for Integral Living

  9. Thank you all! I’ve gone several times to youtube to listen to current teachers about non duality, to end up leaving (maybe it’s my brain’s dyslexia, or experiences I’ve had) that leaves me shaking my head (not no, but ‘what?’ Like a dog ‘worrying over a bone’) the words become literally ‘nonsensical.’ In the way that ‘there is a way that is simple’ and a ‘way that is complex’. I GET they understand what they are talking about, but to anyone outside of their “cultural context” often sounds gibberish.

    Honestly, after 5 near death experiences, several episodes of feeling-bliss awareness energy (that can’t be explained that I did NOTHING to cause it to happen, other than the one NDE, that left me with a clear feeling of ‘energy’ and that fails the definition), much of the intellectual conversation leaves me not with the ‘feeling of energy or bliss or awareness) but simple exhaustion. It is, like someone mistaken me for speaking another language talking–it fails to communicate, explain or certain even lead to a feeling of anything.

    I stopped chasing bliss, not because it’s not available, but because I kind of “got” that when my progress is ready, it’ll return of it’s own accord. Esp during the NDE (by the way I was 14 years old, not a full adult with ideas of what I should be experiencing, etc), I had no previous IDEA that would produce what happened to me: it came to me. That Kabir, Mirabai, et al, had it right; it’s not going to come by ‘thinking’, or demanding ‘ it happen’, anymore than pleading will cause it happening either!!

    I certainly gave it the ‘college’ try for 6.5 years, single focused into ‘non dual’ teaching. Meditating daily (walks, books, ‘seva’, literally attempting everything I could to “try” to get “who am I”. I kept coming to dead ends…mostly resulting in a ‘donut hole’, well whatever it is, I can’t find it! I had a guru who threatened me, after confessing I needed to leave because I reached an ‘end’ without anywhere else to go, got ‘cursed’ with: “You will have bad karma for the rest of your days for leaving your true guru.” and I walked out.

    Certainly got that ‘having nothing divine’ was a bunch of hooey, since I can only count on my experience of what I have felt; bliss is beyond compare and beyond definition.

    Well anyway, I just wanted to share this and say I couldn’t agree more. I’ve stopped trying to find “I” if it means endless derailments of negation that in the end, the world keeps bouncing back in my view, leaving me more frustrated then when I started this journey back in 1965.

    February 16, 2014 at 2:49 am

  10. Anurag Jain

    Good article with a pertinent central note. In Advaita it would translate to doing enough of Karma Yoga (and remember Karma Yoga cannot happen without acknowledging the creator) to have antahkarana shuddhi, (which means a predominance of sattva in the subtle body) before you can actually assimilate the knowledge that “You are Brahman”.

    However there are a few subtle points in William Wildblood’s article that I would like to comment on,

    “The Masters told me that prayer was essential for the spiritual aspirant, even the most advanced. Prayer is how you remember the Creator, and only if you remember Him can you even begin to approach His level. If you don’t reach His level, how can you possibly go beyond Him? Does the modern non-dualist pray? If not, why not? Here’s what the Masters said to me on the subject. Do you think yourself above prayer? Even the greatest saints prayed and, while meditation is necessary, you need the humbling experience of prayer also.”

    Offering prayers to a creator is definitely Bhakti Yoga (which, as we know is nothing but Karma Yoga, ultimately) This practice is meant for an individual to appreciate the fact that he is just part of the fabric of creation and thus he owes an indebtedness to creation for all that it gives him. If an aspirant has really assimilated the fact that he is awareness, acknowledging the role of Isvara is natural to him.

    But I would not like to use words like “reach His level” as William does. There is nowhere to “reach” for everything is Brahman. This “reaching” promptly brings “one” into the journey of becoming, which is Maya. But one needs to remember Brahman and Maya are not some places but knowledge or ignorance (absence of knowledge). Bereft of knowledge, you either view the world dualistically or due to right knowledge, you view everything as Brahman.

    “The great danger for the non-dualist is that he creates a mental version of ‘pure awareness’ and then bases his behavior on conformity to that. Right there you have duality. The idea and the attempt to become that idea. This leads nowhere except illusion to begin with, and falseness and hypocrisy if you persist in that illusion. Even if you experience what seems to be a non-dualistic state in meditation you must remember that any experience is always interpreted by the mind which is the very source of psychological division.”

    The moment a person “creates a mental version” of pure awareness, the person lands in duality. William is correct in pointing this out and explains it further. However, I feel one can explain it more clearly by saying that You are Brahman. Brahman can never become any object of perception. The moment you think of conceiving Brahman in any way, you objectify it and lose the fact that “you” the “subject” is Brahman. Of course, no experience, no matter how non-dual they are, can never be Brahman for the same reason. After the experience, if you continue to take yourself as a limited Jiva and the experience as Brahman, the basic ignorance stays.

    “I think the problem is that many contemporary non-dualists and their teachers fail to grasp the distinction between soul and spirit. The soul is the individual consciousness, the spiritual self that remains on the higher planes when you incarnate (what the Masters described to me as the greater part of you), and it is that we should try to attune ourselves to in meditation. We cannot go beyond it, to the level of pure formlessness, until we have become one with it. If we try, well we all know what happens when you try to run before you can walk. But that is precisely what many modern non-dualist teachers are advising us to do.”

    This is where William completely loses the track. In terms of Advaita, this is a contradiction of the scriptures. The scriptures say that Atman is Brahman. This means that there is no distinction between soul and spirit. Even if such a distinction is taken, it is only taken in Advaita as a provisional distinction to account for the experience of the Jiva. Advaita, being sympathetic of the gradual maturation of a seeker, first superimposes the notion of Jiva – Jagat – Isvara to help the seeker gradually gain maturity and then when the seeker is sufficiently mature, it negates these distinctions by saying that they are all one. The triad of Jiva – Jagat – Isvara is actually one. It is the same Brahman appearing as these three depending upon the upadhis.

    Also there is no “going” towards any level of pure formlessness. This is the language of duality which one comes across in Raja Yoga. Advaita on the other hand is based on knowledge. When you gain knowledge, it happens instantly. One cannot have “direct” knowledge of Brahman/Self/Awareness and still remain ignorant. Knowledge is true to its object. When I show you a Banana tree and ask you to view it as a Papaya tree, no matter how hard you try, you cannot do it. So once you know Brahman/Self/Awareness directly, through identity and by a valid means of knowledge (scripture), you no longer need to “go” anywhere. There is no going or coming. It is just about seeing something which was already there. I shall talk more on this later.

    “What is more some of them also seek to transcend the duality of the material world by, in effect, denying that it (the material world) exists. But it does exist and, let me repeat, you do not go beyond something by denying it. These teachers and their acolytes will have to come back to the physical world in a later lifetime and fully integrate both matter and spirit if they continue with their error. You cannot avoid the lessons of maya by denying her. She is not illusion. She is the Divine Mother who allows the formless Father to manifest. Without Her we would never have come into being.”

    Again, no one is “literally” transcending duality because duality simply does not exist. One is only gaining knowledge of non-duality. Advaita does not say that the material world does not exist. This is a common misperception amongst those who have not spent time studying the scriptures. Advaita says that the reality we perceive is only “apparently real”. This means that it does not exist at all times. Advaita says that the material reality is neither real nor unreal. It’s not unreal because we perceive it and feel its effects. It’s unreal because the material reality undergoes modification and dissolution in the states of dream sleep and deep sleep. Anything which is real would not undergo such modifications. This leaves only awareness as the contender for reality because it does not undergo modification in any of the three states.

    “I said in an earlier post that I am not a Christian in the strict sense but when Christ said no one comes to the Father except through me, he was speaking the exact truth. In one way he may have been talking about the chain of initiation that stretches from master to disciple and which cannot be circumvented, but he was also saying that you cannot know the Father (pure spirit, the uncreated world of formlessness) except through the Son which is the individual soul. You must bring the soul to perfection (symbolized by the Transfiguration) before you are ready for the crucifixion which is the necessary initiation before you can ‘go to the Father’. Thus the knowledge of non-duality can only come through the full experience of duality.”

    Again, this language of coming and going is the language of duality. This is naturally employed when views oneself as the jiva. As I mentioned earlier, the soul and spirit have always been one. The wave and the ocean have always been nothing but water. The wave only has to gain knowledge that “it” and the “ocean” are made of the same substance “water”. The dawning of the knowledge is non-duality. It is not that the wave becomes water.

    I do not understand what William means by going through the “full” experience of duality. Maya is begin-less and eternal. It continues to exist even when avidya in an individual is removed.

    Love,

    Anurag

    February 17, 2014 at 11:22 pm

    • Matthew King

      Thank you all for your valued comments and ongoing discussion.

      I guess I should have originally stated that this work | book might fall into the “channeling” category perhaps.

      From the publishers book description:

      “This is the story of a young man who was contacted by a group of discarnate spiritual beings in 1979 and then regularly spoken to over the following 21 years. It describes the spiritual training given by these Masters, for that is what they were, and offers teachings which, coming from the perspective of transcendent reality, are suitable for any spiritual seeker at any level.”

      So, needless-to-say, William is not a guru and or strict Advaita ‘expert’ obviously nor does he claim to have all the answers. Nonetheless, IMO it was worth sharing.

      February 17, 2014 at 11:49 pm

    • Hello Anurag, thanks for your comment. You are talking from a strictly Advaitic point of view and all you say is true. However it is just one way of looking at things, and life is richer than a single description of it. In a sense to say that everything is Brahman is almost meaningless. Of course, it is! The question is, what is Maya and why is it there. You see, I think there is an individual soul which endures in some form and that duality, or creation as we might call it, has a purpose. Therefore I do not dismiss the concept of becoming. Advaita focuses entirely on being, but in reducing everything to pure consciousness it doesn’t take into account the totality of existence which is being and becoming together not just one or the other but two sides of the same coin. You say that Atman is Brahman, which is true, but does that mean Brahman is Atman? There is a difference hence some kind of duality.

      But actually I am not so interested in ideas of duality and non-duality. These are just concepts and beliefs to which people get attached. It’s only the mind that worries about such things. What matters is the heart. Love is the keynote of the universe. But everyone knows that.

      February 20, 2014 at 10:26 am

      • It seems like at some point, William, trying to talk sense into people who have committed themselves to an absolutist interpretation of Advaita is going to be just as impossible as talking to materialists. Do what you can to let people know that the non duality craze can end up sanctioning an amazing amount of nonsense (just look at Rajneesh aka “osho”). If someone is a confirmed non dual-mentalist or fundamaterialist or fundamentalist, it may be dressed up differently but it’s still a dogmatic mentality. I think you’re putting across a really important message and for those open to it, it will be helpful.

        (yes anurag, all kinds of “dualistic” thinking – like assuming “difference” means duality? What could be more dualistic than that?)

        August 18, 2014 at 6:58 am

        • Thanks for your comment, Don. Expressing the point of view that reality is non-duality and duality together not just one or the other can leave you open to all kinds of attack from inflexible ideologues attached to their beliefs and, in my view, in some kind of denial or on a superiority trip. The link you make between them and materialists is a very good one.

          September 2, 2014 at 7:02 am

        • Hi again, just reread some of the comments. For example, there was one person who (absolutely!) asserted that if your’e still making a distinction between the individual Jiva and the Brahman you’re still in Ignorance (those are my words, but that’s what I got as the gist of it).

          Well, I believed this back in the early 70s when I first encountered Ramana. My problem was that I discovered Sri Aurobindo. Now, as soon as I mention his name, the Rajneesshites will likely come out and quote some of the contradictory, ill informed meanderings of Osho,. Or perhaps someone may quote Nasr or another perenniailist. I’m aware of all the objections (or quote Ramana: “the Divine will descent? But where can he descend to, he is everywhere”)

          The problem is, Kapali Sastry, a disciple of Ganapati Sastri who later became a disciple of Sri Aurobindo, some years still later, wrote a commentary on a text by Ramana, and wrote it from the Aurobindonion viewpoint. Ramana personally reviewed it and approved it.

          now, if you follow the non duality folks almost everywhere on the net, what I just wrote in the previous paragraph would be impossible. Ramana says the individual Jiva has no real existence, Aurobindo very much disagrees. (and they have, if you only look literally at their written texts, dozens of other fundamental disagreements) But Ramana approved an Aurobindonian commentary, how can this be?

          This is why, William, I don’t get into discussions with most self-labeled non dualists. Too much duality in their writing and not enough true non duality!

          September 2, 2014 at 7:21 am

  11. I think I know the book you refer to, Don. It’s the Sat Darshana Bhashya, isn’t it? Ramana wasn’t just pure advaita because there are influences in his teaching from Aurobindo, as you say, and from tantra too.

    But in the end it really doesn’t matter what any teacher says. We have to go by our own intuition about things and common sense. And as far as I am concerned these tell me that advaita is mistaken in its approach to the relative world which has far more reality than it allows. I also don’t put the personal God on a lower level of reality than the impersonal one. I consider them to be two faces of the one reality, just the absolute in different modes relating to passive and active existence. And that has implications for the question of individuality too which is a real God given thing not an illusion of ignorance. So enlightenment does not mean the end of the individual but the end of identification with individuality which is quite a different thing. I haven’t read Aurobindo but as far as I understand him he would say that enlightenment is the integration of being and becoming and not simply entry into timeless, inert being, and I would agree with that.

    September 2, 2014 at 10:43 am

    • Wow, I hadn’t met may people familiar with the Sat Darshana Bhashya. yes, that’s it. And yes, I agree that your integrative view (and that of Sri Aurobindo) is more world affirming than traditional (well, not traditional – Shankara came over 1000 years after the Upanishads) Advaita.

      I know that since the late 19th century, Shankara has had his modernist defenders who want to make him world affirming (Wilber misquotes Ramana on this) but I think if you actually read just about anything Sankara wrote (yes, even his hymns to devotion) it’s hard to find that as life affirming as many might wish to believe.

      Keep on writing – your voice is needed in this discussion.

      September 2, 2014 at 12:23 pm

  12. Shankara needs to be put into context and the context was a fightback by Hinduism against the rejection of the Vedas by Buddhism. So his philosophy is just as much a reaction to something as a pure perception of truth. Or so it seems to me.

    Thanks for your encouragement which I really appreciate. I have a blog where I have gone into these things a bit more. In case you’re interested it’s here http://meetingthemasters.blogspot.co.uk/

    September 2, 2014 at 1:45 pm

    • Thanks. I look forward to having time to look over it.

      September 3, 2014 at 7:40 am

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  14. Julia

    Non-duality simply says that we are Complete and Whole, NOW. This is our true Essence, which is part of the Divine Source, Consciousness, God, whatever one wishes to call it. We participate in the game/world of Form in order to remember who we are. The world of form is of course the illusion of separation. If we are part of the Ocean of Perfect Consciousness, Now, there is not need to continue the “spiritual” search. This simplifies life tremendously. Seeking is not needed. Nothing of this world or outside of ourselves can give us anything of lasting value.

    Non-Duality also says that as long as we identify with a separate “person” (which is part of the illusion), we are prone to suffering. As we realize that we are not separate from anything or anyone, peace can naturally ensue. There is no Death. We simply lose the body, the “person” and the story that goes along with it.

    Non-Duality really resonates with me. There is nothing we need to Do. Nowhere we need to Go and No One we need to Be. We simply Are. Now.

    I’ve studied many other forms of spirituality in the past. Many still preach separation to some degree or another- as if some “souls” are more evolved or “better” than others. That is separation all the way. In reality, we are ALL ONE. We are unique waves in the Ocean of consciousness, but all part of the same Ocean. No wave is “better” or more “special” than any other. That is the ego talking.

    There is nothing the Gurus have that the rest of us don’t have. Separating “gurus” from everyday people is all about duality and separation (part of the illusion).

    The whole notion of Enlightenment is Ego Driven, as if we need to “get somewhere” or “obtain” something. Truth is, we are already “Enlightened” and “Awakened”. Life is awake and we are one with Life, so how can we not be awakened?

    Non-Duality Teacher John Grenafege once said “Enlightement is realizing there is no such thing as enlightenment.”

    Namaste 🙂

    June 18, 2015 at 5:05 pm

  15. I really appreciate Julia’s comment as it so beautifully, elegantly and succinctly points out virtually every one (or, well, most) of the errors that William W is talking about. I wonder if Julia did this intentionally? :>))

    July 31, 2015 at 1:03 pm

  16. larry wildblood

    Niether then
    Nor when
    Just zen
    The whole is a singularity

    September 6, 2015 at 9:47 am

  17. Funnily enough the post awakening assistance coming from the non duality “teachers” is close from non existant. I do agree that the teaching might take you there but then you are on your own when it comes to integration. Some of them will, on very rare occasions, use the world Love in their teachings in relation to post awakening but It is an oddity in the non dual spiritual strategy wher Love is mainly seen as an arising and not as an essential working component of what IS. This is the danger of non duality, its excessive insistence on unity/nothingness as the essential reality dangerously flirt with nihilism. I am in agreement with William. This being said the non dual approach, like they tend to say, is not for everyone, it does not invalidate it, and n the end it is only one of the multiple awakening strategy available out there.

    November 28, 2015 at 4:13 pm

  18. Ometeotl

    I have never thought of Duality as an Opposites concept but rather a concept of the observable differences we see in everyone and everything. Yes we are all one and connected ona spirit level but as it is stated that we must remember the creator,source and that you came out of that creation and source as unique and as different as everything else that has come out of creation and source. Non-duality is a nonsensical concept because Duality in the realm of the spiritual and even physical doesnt state that there is a separateness, just an opposite. and opposites attract and they repel,,We recognize dualism as an adaptability or an aquiescence to opposite and at the same time a unifying or working relationship to the opposite. Hence, Man and Woman, Dark and Light, Good and Evil,Chocolate and Vanilla etc etc. All working in opposition and in harmony with one another. Spirit and body are not separate but they are different from one another and yet your spirit “separates” from your body at the time of death,,does this mean now that duality suddenly exists? Non-Dualists have a good rhetoric but I feel that they dont fill in the gaps of their arguments very well. Me, I will always see life and all that life encompasses as a form of “Trinitarian Duality” not separate but certainly separated and different in its many forms and non-forms. Mind body Spirit,Body Earth and sky,Mind Heart and water. Movement Matter and Wind. Body Creation Source. All one,yes,,but different and distinct,sometimes separate and sometimes unified.

    February 24, 2016 at 3:41 pm

  19. Excellent blog. Some non dualistic teachers say that time doesn’t exist. I don’t think I agree. It seems possible that infinity and the finite can exist simultaneously, or at least come into and out of existence. What is your opinion on the nature of time?

    June 27, 2016 at 11:30 am

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