The Non-Duality Principle

Yin and Yang

Life is just a mysterious multi-dimensional tapestry,
whose threads are composed of nothingness,
and whose patterns are an infinite play of potential,
where nothing is created and nothing is lost.


The principle of nonduality is at the heart of many spiritual traditions, notably Buddhism, Taoism and Advaita. It is also a key to unlocking the wisdom of many sages and mystics of all traditions, past and present.

Nonduality may be of interest to anyone who seeks an answer to the questions, 'Who am I?' and 'What is the meaning of life?'. An intuitive realisation of nonduality may have a lasting impact on how you perceive life.

The principle is strangely very simple and yet paradoxically very difficult to understand or even talk about.

Realisation of nonduality implies a few things:

  • You see that reality is undivided - it does not really consist of parts or 'things'.
  • You see that 'you' are merely an appearance - like a knot in a piece of rope you are of reality, not in reality. 'Your life' is a story.
  • You see that your essence is reality itself - you are all and because reality is undivided, you are also nothing.
  • You see that all divisions are merely appearances - matter, mind, time, space, concept, existence and even non-existence, have no independent existence.

The principle of nonduality is that you are none other than the very ground of being itself - you are that which permeates all.

At the risk of turning nonduality into just another conception, here is an attempt to illustrate the difference:

Illustration of Nonduality

Realisation does not imply a rejection of your personal perspective. You simply add another 'lens' through which to perceive reality, that complements the dualistic perspective of 'things' and divisions.

Understanding nonduality gives you a clearer picture of who you are. Stable realisation can take the 'sting' out of life - turning a fearful struggle into an effortless fascination through both joy and sorrow.

As realisation deepens, once again there is an integration of the two that were never separate - the dual and the nondual. Realisation was never a point, or even an event.

Though it does not imply any specific behaviour, realisation also removes the primary obstacles to selfless action, kindness and compassion. If realisation is anything, it is true unconditional acceptance - pure love.

The conventional view, duality, is inherently selfish. Though it is also required to operate in the mundane world - which is by nature dualistic.

So what is the basis for nonduality?

In fact, modern physics, neuroscience, parapsychology, philosophy and traditional mysticism can all tell us a little something about nonduality.

Understanding Nonduality

To begin to understand the basis for the nonduality principle, we need only take a closer look at our own life experience:

  • A patient observer of his own mind will eventually discover that experientially observer and observed are one. There is no thinker apart from the thought; there is no seer apart from the seeing and so on.
  • Reality is empty of inherent nature - concepts must depend on contrasts and opposites for identity. For example, warm is meaningless without cold and hot. But so too, are cold and hot, meaningless in themselves. So logically, we say all concepts are empty. They have no inherent meaning or existence, from their own side (independent of each other).
  • 'Things' do not exist without a concept. For example, a 'wave' on the ocean is merely 'ocean' unless or until someone comes up with a concept of 'wave' to segment waves from ocean. They may be perceptually discriminated, but they are not known to be separate until the concept exists.
  • Mind is inherently dualistic - there can be no thought without concept.
  • Consciousness, mind and self are all concepts.

Our conceptual mind obscures a more subtle aspect of reality, no less important, that of nonduality. Nonduality does not assert that reality consists of parts, but that there are no true parts, because all 'parts' are really just concepts.

We see duality as the result of our social conditioning and because it is essential for even the most basic activity, such as brushing your teeth.

Even the English language emphasises the play of distinctions with words like I, you, me and that.

The sense of a centre - an independent self - is a result of this conditioning. Through meditation and self enquiry, it is even possible to temporarily or permanently loose the sense of being an independent self.

The ego or delusion of independent self becomes transparent in the presence of realisation. This equates to true freedom, but it comes at a high price.

Suffering is transcended to the degree realisation is stablised. All suffering is merely the experience of ego trying to escape reality. Suffering is not the same as pain or emotional discomfort. In any case, nondual perception is seeing 'through' all appearances.


The nonduality principle is virtually useless to understand; it is frustrating to realise, and it is 'useful' to actualise. Realisation of nonduality is achieved through self enquiry - contemplating all that self is not.

There is an article that provides a very direct, hands-on approach to Awakening to Non-Duality.

If that doesn't do the trick (and it quite probably wont), there are specific methods of contemplation and tools you can use to assist you.

The road is not an easy one, however, as the one who is seeking is attempting to discover that there is really no one seeking. To gain absolute freedom, you pay with the effective death of the ego.

Ultimately, there must be a radical surrender, a dissolving into the life of which 'you' were never apart. Even the asprin of spirituality must be thrown into the water of life.

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