Here are a selection of answers to a few of the many questions that may arise in even a brief discussion about Nonduality.
Q. What is the Nondual experience of reality actually like?
A. There is, strictly speaking, no ‘Nondual experience’; technically, Nonduality is the only ‘experience’ there is – since there is only one reality!
There is a specific quality that is notably present, however, when realisation is present; the Nondual-experience, to the degree it is recognised, is a persistent and unequivocal sense that fundamentally, everything is okay. The underlying emotion is always profound, unspeakable peace.
There are also a wide range of persistent ‘mystical states’ many of which more or less lack many of the qualities of everyday experience most people take for granted. For instance, it is possible to experience the localised life of the body-mind with a strong and persistent intuition that there is literally nobody present. It is also possible to experience the persistent and complete absence of any sense of volition.
During stabilisation, the experience of peace may be heavily suppressed by psychological triggers. Also, the ‘outward’ appearance of someone who is engaged in early stabilisation, will not always authentically reflect the ‘inner’ life: there are many layers of conditioning that take time to adjust. Otherwise, however, peace is always present to varying degrees.
Other nuances of the experience vary significantly between individuals.
Q. What is the relationship between a realisation of Nonduality, and terms like spiritual-awakening, liberation and enlightenment?
It varies depending on who you ask.
In the context of Nonduality, I consider awakening to be a period of experience wherein the psyche of the apparent person encounters first glimpses of understanding. This would generally seem to spurn a process of refinement until realisation is crystal-clear.
Liberation then, is present to the degree the expression of the individual is free from self-reflexive notions of separation and limitation, existential anguish apparently concealing peace, and all related pathology.
Enlightenment meanwhile, probably ought to reflect a still deeper abiding peace and a greater harmony within human affairs.
In another context, it might also readily be said that since there is only one reality, ‘all of reality’ is already intrinsically ‘Enlightened’.
There is, however, no precise definition. It is a very good idea to not get hung up on such terms.
Q. Is there any single issue which may seriously interfere with realisation?
Yes! – any notion of what reality or liberation ought to be like may interfere with your investigation.
Though it is true that a hallmark of liberation is peace and happiness, to pay much attention to this prior to realisation is a good way to become ‘stuck’. Post-realisation, this is not such a significant problem because any stickiness simply calls attention to the resistance that is present.
The fact is, that which is to be recognised and understood is here right now, and always will be.
Q. What should one look for in a Nonduality teacher or tutor?
A teacher or tutor is a friend. Their purpose is to help you remain focused during self-inquiry leading to realisation, to start you off in ‘the right direction’, and to support you along your journey.
You should consider someone:
- with whom you feel a rapport,
- who is themselves peaceful,
- who demonstrates genuine humility, and
- who encourages you to ask questions and to draw your own conclusions.
Q. Can Nonduality be considered a kind of psychotherapy?
Kind-of. What we might call the psyche definitely changes as a result of realisation and the reconditioning required to stabilise in peace.
! An important caveat applies here: Nonduality should probably not be used as a substitute for licensed psychotherapy, or without qualified guidance. Nonduality tutors and teachers are often not strictly qualified to provide this support. Things may get far worse before they get better.
Q. Why is spiritual liberation sometimes described as a kind of ‘death’?
The dissolution of personal conditioning is not a pretty process. The bulk of the psyche is basically ‘automated’. Given certain personal triggers, this conditioning will give rise to strong emotions, cognitive intuitions and bodily disturbances when you first switch allegiance to your new found understanding.
The psychological narrative-self (or ‘ego’) with which you previously oriented yourself to reality is experiencing its end. As it is basically the entire personal identity, this ‘programming’ will act out its ‘death throws’ accordingly, when faced with significant annihilation/reconfiguration.
Q. What is the ego?
In this context, it refers to the psychological narrative-self with which most of us are familiar. The voice in the mind that is constantly telling you about the personal life of the mind-body, criticising you and others and panicking about the situation – this voice is the symptom of the ego.
Essentially, the ego is a story of the personal identity, through which the perception of reality is filtered and all actions are mediated. When that story includes the implicit assumption of the reality of the separate, limited self, the ego is essentially pathological – or said to be in ignorance.
Q. What is ignorance?
Ignorance is simply the unconscious ignore-ance of the truth: that the separate, limited self is at best an organising principle for personality, and at worst, a pathological misrepresentation of reality.
Importantly, in this context the term is not pejorative – though in common parlance it is often used as such.
Q. Is realisation of Nonduality accompanied by an absence of thoughts?
Realisation is generally accompanied by a significant reduction or complete absence of self-referential personal thoughts. Since such thoughts are reputed to account for upwards of 90-95% of the thoughts we experience, most thoughts usually disappear.
The thoughts that are left are largely functional and have no personal emotional content; list making, analysis, technical and planning thoughts make up the remainder.
Q. What practical relevance do neuroscience and psychology have to a discussion of Nonduality?
Very limited relevance.
Contemporary neuroscience is still of the mistaken belief that the brain generates consciousness. In any case, it turns out that the truth of Nonduality applies for all practical intents and purposes, regardless of any errant metaphysical speculations to the contrary. In the end, it will not matter what underlying metaphysics is assumed with a given scientific model – not in terms of the question of fundamental peace anyway.
There is some overlap with trans-personal psychology that may be relevant to anyone who is interested.
Q. What is the relationship between physics and cosmology, and Nonduality? What of the ‘Big Bang’?
The Big Bang and Physics is simply our prevailing cultural mythology and metaphysics with regard to the patterns and regularities observed in nature. It seems to work quite well as applied science – across a wide range of modern technology.
There is no serious fundamental conflict. The physics and neuroscience is simply incomplete and not entirely congruent with the evidence in parapsychology. Significant revision to the cultural and scientific narrative will be required at some future time.
Q. What is the relationship between parapsychology (eg. telepathy, ghosts, psychokinesis, past lives), New Age (eg. souls, chakras), and Nonduality?
Nonduality describes the absolute foundation. Everything else is structure – the content of consciousness. It certainly provides a basis for the para-psychological phenomena, but beyond that, such topics are out of scope.