What Is Nonduality? Definition and Meaning

You might not have heard this term before, unless you have been interested in spirituality, meditation, Indian philosophies, or in ways to expand your consciousness.

If you have been reading about the philosophies of the East, you might have come across the term Advaita Vedanta. In the West, it is called Nonduality, Nondualism or Non-Duality.

What Is Nonduality, and How to Define It?

To understand the meaning of this this word, we first need to define it.

Nonduality is a philosophy, which says that there is just One Eternal Spirit in existence, and that everything in the Universe is an inseparable part of it. At the same time, nonduality also says that the world is not real, but is an illusion created by the mind and the senses.

Nonduality is derived from the Sanskrit word Advaita, meaning not two and non-separation. In other words, Oneness. It means that all things are interconnected. You are one with everything in the Universe, part of the whole, unlike Duality, which means two, not one, the world and you, other people and you.

The mind finds it difficult to accept the concept of nonduality, because it does not accept that the world is a creation of the mind and the five senses, and that it is not real. It also find it difficult to accept the concept of Oneness.

In order to understand what nonduality is, you have to be in a state beyond words and thinking. This requires the ability to silence the mind. In this silence, you realize the real meaning of non-duality.

However, to arrive to this state is not so simple and easy. You need to do some inner work, such as concentration and meditation.

You need concentration to focus the mind, and you need meditation to enable you to clean the mind of thoughts, so you can focus and become aware of the essence, the Spirit, the life force, beyond the mind.

Gradually, as the mind become calm and peaceful, you arrive to the experience of non-duality. In this state, of being without thoughts, you realize your Oneness with the One Spirit.

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The Mind Prevents You From Seeing Reality

Wait a moment before you stop reading and going somewhere else. This is a most simple and most rewarding process, though not easy. When you realize this state, your point of view on life, and who you are, would completely change.

The mind, with its thoughts, ideas, beliefs and habits, prevents you from seeing what is beyond it. It is as though it envelops your consciousness and obscures your vision. It lets you see the world only through the eyes of the mind and the five senses and not as it really is.

People regard themselves as separate units, separate individuals, and they see the world and everything in it, including themselves, as being separate from the world and from other people. Only after removing the veil that the mind creates, you will be able to realize the Oneness of everything, and thereby, realize what nonduality is.

Does this this seem like a weird idea? Yes, it does, because you have probably never come across this idea, and because the mind has been programmed to think differently.

You might ask why you need to read or think about this topic and in what way it can help you.

Well, if it does not speak to your soul, you might leave it and go on with your life. However, if you wish to improve the quality of your spiritual life, find answers to life’s questions, gain inner peace, and expand your consciousness and awareness far and beyond, it would be a good idea to read about this topic, try to understand it, and train yourself to realize it.

Understanding and Experiencing Nonduality

Imagine that the sky is hidden by clouds of different shapes and sizes. These clouds constantly move and change their shapes, and it is only when they disperse and disappear that you can see the blue sky. The sky, on the other hand, never moves or changes. It is up there all the time, but sometimes, it is hidden by clouds.

The sky is permanent, only the clouds are transitory, coming and going.

Thoughts, people and events constantly come and go, just like the clouds, while the background is the One Eternal and Formless Spirit, which is always here and never changes. It is the only reality.

If you wish to understand, and become aware of the One Spirit that exists everywhere and within everything, you need to understand nonduality.

While dreaming during sleep, you go through all sorts of pleasant and unpleasant experiences. In the dream, everything seems so real, but when you wake up you realize that these experiences were just a dream. They were not real, and lasted only while you were sleeping.

You are the same person before, during, and after the dream, living in the same conditions and circumstances, but in your dreams, you go through all kinds of experiences, situations and circumstances, which seem real, but don’t really exist.

It is like watching a movie and identifying with the heroes, and then, when the movie ends, you forget about it. It seemed real for a while, but when the lights went on, and you stopped watching the illusion on the screen, everything disappeared.

In all these situations, you – your consciousness – spirit, is the stable factor, and all else just come and go. You, you awareness of yourself, existed before the dream in your sleep and before you started to watch the movie, continued to exist during the dream or movie, and stayed after the dream or movie ended.

This means that there is an ongoing sort of reality, and everything else is like a projected movie on the screen of reality. This means that the only reality is your Consciousness-Awareness, and everything else, thoughts, ideas, beliefs, possessions, and things are transient things, of which we are aware, interact with and use, but they are like images on a screen.

The best way to understand the topic we are talking about here is to experience it, know it from your own experience, not just by reading, but this requires, as said earlier some inner work on your part.

Though the world might be an illusion created by the mind and the five senses, it does not mean that you need to give up on everything. You can accept this point of view, understand it and live it, and at the same time go on with your life, work, love, and achieve goals.

You might find it difficult to see how being aware of nonduality, and living ordinary, daily life can coexist, but they do.

What prevents you from realizing and understanding, what nonduality is?

These are the restlessness and nonstop thinking mind, the belief in the reality of the ego, of separate individual existence, that prevent you from becoming aware of what is beyond them and understanding nonduality.

What can help you realize and understand nonduality?

Looking within you, and searching for the source of your mind and thoughts, where they come from, and discovering who and what you really are, bring the knowledge and understanding of what nonduality is.

How Live in Nonduality and Realize Its Meaning?

There are various ways to do so.

One way is to find someone with experience to teach you. It is possible that there are some teachers in your country, or you might travel far away to find them.

The other way is by learning to silence your mind and through concentration and meditation. As the mind become quieter, it becomes easier to realize the meaning of the concept of Nonduality-Nondualism.

You gain true understanding and realization of it, not by just reading about it, but by experiencing it. The first step might be reading and hearing about it. However, true experience and understanding is gained by practicing various techniques, as mentioned here – concentration and meditation.

Real understanding becomes possible when you can silence your mind, and when you can rise your consciousness above the mind.

As for meditation, you might find it useful to practice the Self-Inquiry Meditation and the Who Am I meditation.

When the mind is silent, there is Oneness, not “me and my spirit or soul”, not “me and the body”, not “me and they”, but just Oneness. This is Nonduality.

“Space seems broken and diverse because of the many forms in it. Remove the forms and pure space remains. So, too with the Omnipresent Self.”
– Adi Shankara

“To deal with things knowledge of things is needed. To deal with people, you need insight, sympathy. To deal with yourself, you need nothing. Be what you are, a conscious being and don’t stray away from yourself.”
– Nisargadatta Maharaj

“All separation, every kind of estrangement and alienation is false. All is one.”
– Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

“The consciousness in you and the consciousness in me, apparently two, really one, seek unity and that is love.”
– Nisargadatta Maharaj

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