Nonduality, Maya, and Spiritual Awakening
By Remez Sasson
The philosophy of nonduality or nondualism, as it is sometimes called, says that there is just One formless and limitless Spirit, and that everything in the Universe is within it, part of it and created by it. This includes every person, animal, plant and tree, everything animate and inanimate. This One Spirit manifests in and through myriads of forms, all forms being inseparable part of it. This philosophy, which is Eastern in origin and is called Advaita-Vedanta in India, also says that it is only illusion that causes us to view the world as separate from us.
There is so much misunderstanding, disagreement and clashes of egos in the world, due to the fact that each personality-ego is different and unique, considering itself as a separate unit. Everyone is deeply engrossed in their personality - ego, guarding it and protecting it jealously. This attitude leads to being trapped in a small imaginary world, where there are misunderstandings, disagreements, tensions and struggles.
Accepting in theory, or better still experiencing nonduality, can solve of these problems.
It is quite possible that not everyone will agree with the information and description of non duality as presented here. It is also possible that someone else's experience might be different, but I hope that this article will contribute at least some interesting and valuable information about non duality.
The One Spirit manifests through your body, brain and mind. This Spirit is pure Consciousness, but when acting through the body and five senses, it seems to get identified with the body it is manifesting through, and this gives birth to the individual personality - ego. It is as if the Spirit "forgets" itself as being pure, indivisible Spirit- Consciousness. This "forgetfulness" is so strong and deep that the body and the Spirit manifesting through it, tend to act as one unit, as a separate and independent individuality - personality. The One Spirit is pure Consciousness, one homogenous whole, but due to the involvement with the body, five senses and thoughts, there arises identification with them, and the "creation" of a separate individual unit, which one considers to be himself or herself.
The physical body is an instrument created and used by the Spirit and is not the real "I", but as the identification with it is so strong, it is considered to be as the real entity that we are. You can start to realize that you are not the body, the personality which you consider to be yourself, when you learn to witness with detachment the activities of your body, mind and thoughts. This of course requires some degree of the ability to master your mind and still it.
Nonduality and the Mind
By now you may have started to understand what Nonduality really is. The idea is that there is one Spirit - Consciousness everywhere, which cannot be divided into parts, and this Consciousness is the only real, enduring, and existing 'something' in the Universe.
This Consciousness seems to generate thoughts, ideas and feelings, which are impermanent and constantly change, and in this sense are to be regarded as unreal; now they are here, the next moment there are others. This is the Maya of the Eastern philosophies. It sort of covers and hides the pure Consciousness, which seems to forget itself and identify with the body.
In nonduality there is no' two', there is only 'one'. It is only illusion and erroneous way of thinking that causes us to view everything as separate from us. This fact is realized in a state of inner silence and peace, when there are no restless thoughts and mental activity to hide the truth.
When the ability to silence the mind becomes natural, one can live in this Consciousness - Awareness, while living and participating in day-to-day's life and activities. A silent mind is a precondition for becoming aware if the Spirit that one is, and of the essence of nonduality. This might seem strange, since the mind is considered to be the tool through which one gains knowledge, but to awaken to the Spirit, understand nonduality and gain spiritual knowledge one has to silence the mind, because this knowledge and realization is beyond the mind.
All thoughts, ideas and knowledge are mental. In order to know something beyond the mental world we need a different instrument. To comprehend the mind and what is beyond it, we have to rise above it, to the source beyond it.
Nonduality and Maya - Illusion
Here is more information to make the concept of nonduality clearer.
A hologram seems to be three-dimensional, yet it is flat;. A mirage looks so real, yet it is only an illusion. A robot may be built, resembling a human being and acting like one, yet it is just a machine. In all of these cases there is illusion, but there is also some reality behind this illusion.
In the East they use the following metaphors to explain and differentiate between illusion and reality:
Jewels made of gold are called earrings, bracelets or rings, yet they are just gold. For convenience we call all those objects by different names, yet is only gold. Before they were made into jewels they were gold, now they are gold, and after they will be melted they will also be gold.
Objects made of clay are only clay. They may be called plates, vases, or statues, yet they are made of the same stuff, clay, which temporarily exists as a definite object.
There is just One indivisible Consciousness - Reality, but due to an illusionary phenomenon called Maya, this reality becomes hidden. All beings and inanimate objects, including planets and galaxies, are one with the One Spirit, but due to Maya there seems to be separation, individual units in the vast and unlimited Spirit.
Nonduality and Spiritual Awakening
Accepting and realizing what nonduality is, can transform one's attitude toward everything and lead to spiritual awakening. This realization comes through increased ability to focus and calm the mind, through meditation, constant reading about this subject, meditation, and being in the company of people who have realized nonduality. Sometimes there might be a sudden dawn of understanding, a sudden enlightenment, but often it is a process that takes time. The awakening and realization might come and go, faint at first, but getting stronger in time. When the process of understanding nonduality and awakening starts, it will go on, even if sometimes you are not aware of the process. There will be small rays of light at first, but one day the full sun of awakening and realization will shine.
From the perspective of nonduality, when one starts to understand and accept nonduality, the identification with the ego or body starts loosen its grip. Your external life and activities would most probably continue as was before. You will go on acting, interacting, working, eating, sleeping and doing everything as before, but now you start to realize that you are an inseparable part of the One Spirit, and understand that the body and the personality are not you. This realization brings a sense of true and great freedom and bliss.
In this state you feel and know that you are the ever present and impersonal Consciousness - Spirit. The world looks like an illusion from this point of view, even tough you still live in it and experience it. It is then like watching a movie. You see what is happening on the screen, aware of everything, yet not too involved with the characters playing on the screen, knowing that they are not real. You live in the world, yet with consciousness and awareness beyond the immediate world and beyond ego and body. This is spiritual awakening.
Awakening from the dream of unreality is the path of non-duality. This awakening brings happiness, joy, bliss, fearlessness, and inner power. We rise above the mind and return Home, to where we always are, but have forgotten. We realize who we really are.