The Essence of Non-Duality (Advaita)

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The following article is my interpretation of the non-dual (Advaita) teachings. It is a concept that you can explore and see if it resonates with your experiences. I do not claim to know the truth. All I’m presenting you is a concept and what you make of it is your choice.

Advaita, for me, is not a philosophy for intellectual discussion but the pinnacle of a deep understanding one can gain in this lifetime. Maybe I’m delusional or have unconscious biases, but this teaching has given me an excellent roadmap to navigate life peacefully.

Please note that I’m using the word “navigate” and not “understand” life. Life is duality. Therefore, it’s impossible to crack the code that dictates life processes. Duality is not to be viewed as a philosophical or intellectual problem that needs a solution. It is unsolvable cause the tool used to explore it – the mind, is itself is a product of duality.

I’m not here to claim that Advaita can solve the world’s big problems like climate change, violence, animal cruelty, injustice, racism, castism, mental health disorders, and more. If you’re approaching non-duality from that perspective, you’ll be disappointed. 

If it doesn’t do anything or make us better human beings, what good is it? And the answer is, It’s no good. It won’t answer any questions or satisfy any of your intellectual curiosities. You cannot use it in any way to your advantage. But it will destroy all of your questions. Sounds radical? Whether it is or not, I leave it to you, but let’s explore a bit before we come to a conclusion.

But think about it, what is the one source of all our sufferings – It is the thinking mind. By thinking mind, I mean the mind that is constantly preoccupied with conflicting thoughts. I’m not talking about the mind that works on creative and artistic endeavors – that is the working mind.

The thinking (restless) mind lives either in the dead past or an imaginary future. It is obsessed with an idea – a false image it unconsciously created at some point as a self-defense mechanism. It becomes belligerent when that image is exposed or attacked. It spends a long time in rumination, which is the main cause of our suffering.

It simply gives us the ability to go within and find out the truth based on personal experience. I know all of this sounds radical at first glance, but as you go deeper, you discover a substratum that is common to all of us – it’s the unicity or ONE energy or consciousness that is whole without a second. 

Duality is the interplay of this energy. But that’s an illusion. In reality, nothing is happening. All happening is a product of Maya, also known as space, time, and causation. Maya is not a separate entity but an illusion created by the “one” consciousness. It is neither evil nor undesirable. Simply stated, it is phenomenality.

It creates dualistic concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, moral and immoral, desirable and undesirable, so on and so forth. Therefore, every idea of happiness in life comes bundled with an almost equal, if not more, unhappiness.

So does non-dual understanding destroys the duality? No. It helps transcend duality to realize the absolute and unchanging truth. A truth that changes cannot be the truth. The teaching itself is not the truth but a pointer to “that” which is eternal and unchanging.

Moving From Phenomenon to Noumenon

Many people make the mistake of identifying non-duality as something that will make them calmer, wiser, or solve their immediate problems. Non-duality does not make any such promise. It does not solve any problem but dissolves them.

These problems arise from the identified aspect of consciousness or the ego. The ego or the personal self is the identified aspect of consciousness that writes a script of a never-ending life drama. It mistakes thrill and excitement for happiness and looks for temporary pleasures to fill a void that is none other than its own creation.

The tragedy is that there’s nothing in duality that can fulfill this void. It keeps growing bigger with time until the mind becomes involved in an obsessive thought pattern that it deems impossible to get out of. The primary fear is the fear of annihilation. All of the ego’s actions are motivated to sustain and perpetuate the personal self.

Therefore, our ego wants peace of mind in daily living, but it invariably does precisely the opposite. I’ve heard people say they’re loving, kind, and compassionate, but their actions never match the words. There’s a complete disconnect between the conscious mind and the deeper unconscious.

The ego or the limited “me” not only wants to survive and also expand infinitely. It never defines limits to growth and ambition and remains in a never-ending hunt for happiness.

Though the “me” asserts that it desires love and affection from others, it also enjoys drama, thrill, and anxiety associated with behavioral issues. When it cannot get what it wants, it finds covert mechanisms to seek attention by playing the victim. The root of all suffering is strong identification or grasping of the name and form as a separate entity.

In my 20s, while I struggled to make standing in society, I often questioned my parents, “what is it that we seek by working hard and fitting in with the rest?” At one level, the answer would be money, fame, recognition, admiration, and so forth. 

I would further question, “And what after that?” And they told me that all of the above gave happiness, peace of mind and made us better in every aspect. But are we really happy and at peace?

Despite humanity having made so much progress in science and technology with every comfort available at the click of a button, we’re experiencing severe mental health crises.

After a lot of heating arguments with my parents, they put a stop to the conversation by saying that, “we do it because everyone else is doing it?” And that’s what it boils down to in the end. We never question anything. 

Initially, it feels comfortable to follow the herd blindly. It gives a false sense of security. But later, it consumes you and makes you into a hollow shell, totally disconnected from your true nature.

So does that mean that we isolate ourselves in caves and disconnect from reality? No. First, you question your concept of reality. If it changes with time, it cannot be real.

A thousand years back, if someone spoke about life as working 9 to 5 in closed cabins, they would have been declared insane. The world that seems real today may not be so in the time to come. In duality, change is the only constant.

Also, we humans tend to view the world through the filters of our minds which distorts the perception according to past conditional and beliefs. Although the physical world appears to be the same, each one of us interprets it differently, so how can we say it’s real.

The reality lies beyond the abstraction of name and form. One needs to cultivate a harmonious mind to see “that” which forms the substratum of all perceptions, as Jiddu Krishnamurthy would say, see it for what it is.

In duality, you can have the freedom to create the life you want by freeing yourself from the grasp of the conditioned-subjugated mind.

Provided you challenge every belief, theory, and ideology. When you face your fears and see them for what they are rather than your perception about them. Find out the source from where all ideas originate. If you do that, you’ll discover the truth eventually.

What does happiness mean to you? Are you chasing concepts to experience sensual pleasures by manipulating your body chemistry? Or are you seeking lasting peace that prevails irrespective of the situations in the world?

We can attain this peace living in the world, provided we know our true nature. When the limited “me” realizes that it is unreal, our goals and ambitions fade away. I know it sounds scary cause we’re in love with our goals. 

No material fulfillment is going to change who you are. It’s not going to bring lasting peace. We have been fed this notion that we need to become better and worthy to gain acceptance from others. That we need to continually prove our worth to become whole.

The bad news is that the “one” that’s trying to achieve worthiness is never going to get it – it’s never going to be satisfied with what it achieves. And the good news is that you are already whole! No destination is going to give you lasting happiness.

You’re not going to discover your wholeness by my telling you what to do or not do. You have to find it yourself. An approach suggested by Naragaddata Maharaj is to find out what you’re not, and you’ll arrive at your natural state. 

When all concepts fade, what remains is the “I AM” that shines in the bliss of pure awareness – you are that. It is a spontaneous knowing multiplicity is an abstraction and that the same consciousness runs through each one of us, just like the electricity runs through all gadgets to carry out their designated functions.

What you perceive yourself to be, comes from memory. It is dependent on the thinking. If all of your memory was gone, what would remain? What remains is the impersonal aspect of consciousness that is free from time, space, and causation. 

It is the constant or “being” that witnesses the mind – thoughts, feelings, emotions, sensations, and the physical world of names and forms. What is common to all life? It is the “being.”

Conclusion

Don’t believe a word I say till you realize the truth for yourself. Question everything. Challenge every teaching and scripture – even non-duality. Non-duality is merely a concept that points to the absolute. This concept will remain untrue till you have a direct experience yourself.

Even the word absolute is a concept. You won’t know the truth until you “see” (not the sight) it for yourself. Once you see it, you’re out of the matrix, even while living in it. The limited “me” dissolves – and with it dissolves all concepts and beliefs that create suffering.

The outcome of this realization is unconditional peace of mind that marks the distruction of the false self (“me”) or ego which creates suffering by establishing for strengthening the sense of separation.

Let your mind wrestle with the thoughts. When the mind finally gives up and settles down, the understanding will happen spontaneously.

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