Latest post:

Non-duality in plain English?
February 1st, 2014

illustration (attribution, if any possible, is at the end of the article)

Non-duality in plain English?

Duality is easily portrayed as 'ignorance'. But then non-duality is often portrayed as some kind of non-judgmental Oneness… and ignorance, this is!

Non-duality is not "it's all the same", some moralistic blurb where wholesome and unwholesome, life and death, etc., are all the same (and any discernment would lead to 'ignorance').

In buddhist terms, there is no 'same'… Emptiness is itself empty! There is no 'underlying' essence.
Similarly, the Buddha made clear that 'ignorance' is not "right view", and that suffering is not nirvāṇa…

So what is non-duality?
It is the cessation of caricature, the cessation of simplistic views…

Non-duality is going beyond the "I'm right, you're wrong",  ordinarily embodied (or interpreted in practical life) as "I'm 100% right, you're 0% right (and I 100% know so)."  Even if people are smart enough to know this is a caricature, they can say so, but they still embody a lack of nuance the next instant!

Non-duality is going beyond the "black and white" ethics, and righteousness, and absolutist certainties about Truth (including spiritual Truth… I've just come across videos of Nick Vujicic again —e.g. Nicholas James Vujicic No arms.. No legs.._ No worries!.wmv — and he believes in the Bible, I don't… but can I deny this belief supported him, or that his subsequent contribution to the world, notably against bullying, is incredibly wholesome? Nope! I don't share all  his beliefs, does it mean I should oppose him? How far and stupid could this go?).

But the cessation of caricature is not a confusion that "it's all the same." It is the introduction of nuances!

Buddhism is nothing without 'engagement'! And you cannot engage with a big singular fuzzy blurb… And you're likely to go wrong if you caricature reality in binary all-and-nothing's, right-and-wrong's… But you can wisely engage with nuances!

"Emptiness is form": non-duality is the cessation of simplistic binary views by letting in the nuances of reality and the uniqueness of each moment (uniqueness which can only be seen when one opens one's eyes on subtle changes).

Non-duality is going from "black and white" to the full spectrum of colours.

There's still colours! There's still 'form'! There's still differences, and the distinction between wholesome and unwholesome.


It is said that, by introducing duality, discernment is a root-cause of ignorance. But it is also said that, by introducing nuance and thus 'appropriateness', discernment is a root-cause of wisdom! And it is said that wisdom — not  single-pointed concentration — is the key to nirvāṇa, to the cessation of suffering, to the cessation of lust, aversion and ignorance!

Discernment is not inherently the problem! Discernment is not 'condemned' to introduce caricatures! But you can respond adequately  to the situation at hand only if you perceive nuances, only if you perceive how this context differs from another, only if you drop preconceptions and prejudices and certainties and look  for the nuances, look  for the hints and the clues of a solution, look  for available resources, guidance, intelligence, wisdom…

Discernment is not the problem; the problem is how you relate to discernment!
The problem is when you stop looking because you imagine that you've seen enough, that now you know enough, that you've discerned enough… and subsequently start acting based on (pre)conceptions and certainties.
Even if you've seen all perfectly, your act will affect the context so it is only logical that you should look again to check whether the unfolding of events requires adjustments here and there, further engagement, slight pushes and nudges in a wholesome direction… That's the thing! When you see nuances, you see interactions, interconnections, interdependence… Some sort of 'oneness' appears, but it is a oneness that connects the dots, without fusing the dots into one big dot!

Everybody 'knows' the "right view" that we can never truly be 100% sure… but the ordinary mind doesn't 'act' according to such knowledge! The REAL-isation, the attainment, of nirvāṇa is when one's acts embody  this right view, make this right view 'real'… and the primary manifestation of such an embodiment is when one does not  'know' but one intently and intentionally looks! And listens and touches…

#Buddhism   #Dharma   #nonduality  
photo © Andrew Karpov (