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An Introduction To Non-Duality
Seeing non-duality means seeing that our most basic assumption about our life, that we are separate, is only an appearance. We seem to be the subject of our life, moving through a world of objects, including those sometimes difficult objects known as ‘other people’. But actually there is no separation, there is no subject and object, there is only seamless oneness.
Recognising this is sometimes called ‘liberation’. Although there are no rules, seeing liberation has a tendency to re-configure our psyche. Liberation may be seen suddenly or it may be seen gradually, and as Nisargadatta said “The quick is not better than the slow.” However, if liberation comes about quickly, the changes in the psyche tend to be more noticeable, precisely because they are sudden. There is no advantage to this, it just makes them easier to describe.
There are no necessary implications in liberation, and so any possibility can happen. If it couldn’t, it wouldn’t be liberation, it would be imprisonment. However, this re-configuration of the psyche often brings about a radically changed view of reality.
We can sum up this changed view in three sentences. Firstly it is seen that This Is It. It is recognised that this, whatever is arising, is the entirety. This is nothing becoming everything. Time and space are seen through. ‘Past’ and ‘future’ and ‘here’ and ‘there’ are seen through. Neurotic thoughts and feelings about the past and future, such as guilt, regret, nostalgia and anxiety, diminish or disappear.
With the neurotic energy that attaches to the separated person reduced or gone, it is also seen that This Is Enough. The neurotic personality usually sees this as Not Enough, because there is so little engagement with whatever is actually happening when it is seen through the veil of separation. In separation, our attention is focussed so much on the past, the future, our own concerns and our own projections, that of course whatever is actually arising seems to be too thin and insubstantial to be satisfying. Most of the time we are engaging not with life, but with our own spectral imaginings. The result is often boredom or depression, and a restless searching for something more exciting to happen. But with separation gone, the complete aliveness of every moment is seen, and so this becomes sufficient. The desire for something more exciting to happen diminishes or dies away and joy is taken in the simplicity of whatever is – the aroma of coffee, the sound of the wind in the trees, the texture of a cat’s fur. Because we no longer have a need for excitement and drama to ward off boredom, a more simple and a quieter life is often led.
The third change in the way the psyche views reality in liberation can be summed up in the words “It is seen that This Is What It Is (And It Isn’t Anything Else).” In separation, the psyche often adds meaning and purpose to what is, precisely because what is in it’s simplicity is not experienced as fulfilling enough. We want What Is With A Cherry On Top. So we invent endless stories about What This Is About. For instance a fall in the street may be turned into A Punishment From God. A win on the lottery may be turned into The Fruits Of Good Karma, or The Grace Of The Guru. We live as the star of our own movie, in a story moving meaningfully towards some kind of purposeful resolution. Meaning and purpose are seen as justifying our existence.
But just as a flower needs no meaning to be a perfect flower and a cat needs no meaning to be a perfect cat, we need no meaning to be a perfect Jim or Mary or Bill or Annie. We are already oneness expressing itself as whoever we are. How could that possibly be improved upon? When this is seen, everything is simply what it is, and it isn’t anything else.
In liberation, the dramas of meaning and purpose that the separated mind thrives on die away, or at least they are seen for what they really are – as stories such as we might tell to entertain a bored child on a rainy afternoon. Our need to Save The Planet, or Please God, or Perform Seva For Our Guru To Cleanse Our Karma disappears. So does our fascination with purifying our chakras, balancing our aura and having therapy for our past (and maybe future) lives. And it is also seen that if any of these stories continue, that’s O.K. too, that is also “Liberation doing it’s thing”.
And what about love? Now we come to the deepest mystery. What most radically re-configures the psyche in liberation is the recognition of Unconditional Love. It is realised that unconditional love cannot be understood by the personal mind and is, like everything else to do with liberation, impersonal. In other words, unconditional love has nothing to do with me or with you. Unconditional love simply is. It excludes nothing. If it did, it would not be unconditional. The mind is baffled by this. The mind can only live in conditionality, dividing up experience into what it likes and what it dislikes. But there is no need for the mind to torture itself with its inevitable failure to love unconditionally, because in liberation it is seen that unconditional love is simply the case, regardless of what you and I might be thinking and feeling. Always unconditionally there is love. When this is seen, even the most ordinary moment becomes vividly alive.
In liberation it is seen that the person that we think we are is simply an appearance. At our heart and at the heart of everything is undifferentiated Being from which all differences appear. There is no self, there is no person.
The most common misconception about liberation is that it is something a person can gain. But liberation is a loss – the loss of the sense that there ever was a separate person who could choose to do something to bring about liberation.
When it is seen that there is no separation, the sense of vulnerability and fear that attaches to the person falls away and what is left is the wonder of life just happening. Instead of meaning there is a squirrel motionless on a grey tree trunk, legs splayed, head up, looking straight at you. Instead of purpose there is the incredible way an ant crawls over a twig.
When the sensation that I am in control of my life and must make it happen ends, then life is simply lived and relaxation takes place. There is a sense of ease with whatever is the case and an end to grasping for what might be.
Many teachers of non-duality suggest that there is someone who can do something to heal their sense of separation; in other words that there is a person who is able to discover that they are not a person. The absurdity of this idea is often camouflaged by highly complex and subtle thinking.
Teachings about non-duality frequently present the seductive idea that liberation can be realised through an evolutionary spiritual path. This has no actual connection with non-duality but it can offer us a convincing, although meaningless, story about it.
A way of searching may lead to a person being more comfortable. That is fine but it is all that you get – a person who is more comfortable in their prison. If you are in prison, it is better to be comfortable but that doesn’t get the person out of the prison they perceive themselves to be in.
Nothing will get the person out of their prison because the person is the prison. When the person drops away, it is seen that there never was a prison in the first place.
Then it is seen that ‘I’ and ‘you’ are the light in which everything arises.
Tony Parsons on Richard’s book ‘Drink Tea, Eat Cake’
“It is rare to find a work that is devoid of any agenda to satisfy the seeker’s need to be given a path or a purpose to follow. However, Richard’s latest book is just such a rarity …. Every response to a rich variety of questions points unwaveringly towards the non-dual perspective …. The reader is carried along and inspired by an expression that comes out of a deep and rich experience of life with all of its complexity and humour…. Here is a book to savour, to chuckle with and to keep and refer to as a rare work of undiluted non-dualism.”
Richard lives in England on the border of West Kent and East Sussex.
If you would like to contact Richard, please go to the foot of Meetings Page for details.
If you would like to buy a copy of
Non-Duality Questions, Non-Duality Answers
(334 pages – £12.99)
Drink Tea, Eat Cake (286 pages – £12.45)
‘The Book of No One’ (242 pages – £13.45)
‘I Hope You Die Soon’ (117 pages – £8)
Please go to www.non-dualitypress.com