What Is Non Duality?
Non-dual understanding provides the visceral answer
to the age-old question “Who am I?”
It is the perception of our true nature, and
confirms what sages have been saying for eons: Who we
truly are is neither
mind nor body, both of which are transient and therefore illusory. Who we are,
essentially, is consciousness or awareness.
What Can Understanding Of Non Duality
Do For Me?
Seeing this clearly does not make us essentially
different from anyone else. But it distinctly
alters our experience. The
result is a more graceful life, greater acceptance of what is, and a
reduction of psychological suffering.
More than anything, it is the end of the perpetual
search for wholeness and completeness that forms
the background of most
peoples’ lives. It is the end of the sense of “becoming” this or “becoming”
that, as well as the seemingly never ending craving to fill the void that
began the moment we
believed our separateness.
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EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER FIVE
Never the Same Again
From the age of twenty, when I learned about
meditation and enlightenment, there was one pervasive
current of thought
running through my brain. It began when I awoke and was there until I slept. And
the intensity never lessened. It was, of course, the desire that my sense of
incompleteness would one day be replaced by the peace or
so-called bliss of enlightenment. By my
late forties, my thinking remained
unchanged except that expectations of success had seriously
Shortly after Bob arrived, however, my worn-out concepts of, and desires for,
liberation were replaced by the conclusion, I will never be the same again.
Indeed, that thought
became somewhat of a mantra for the five weeks of Bob’s
visit. And I heard similar reactions from
others who spent more than two or
three days hearing Bob’s non-duality teachings.
Amazingly, this was unrelated to experience. It had
only to do with understanding. During Bob’s
visit, there was no transmission
of bliss, no trance-like state of meditation, and no tapping on
forehead. There was simply a reaction to following Bob’s instruction to
investigate the belief
in the “me” we have all lived with since childhood.
It was a reaction to seeing clearly that the
past and future are nothing
more than mental images. If past and future are illusory, then so is
entire existence. If past and future never happened, what exactly did? It was a
looking within and, instead of experiencing an independent
entity, finding emptiness or “no thing.”
And it was a realization that since
“no thing” has been with me ever since birth—while absolutely
else about me has changed—then emptiness or “no thing” must be who I am. That
case, who I really am is, and has always been, whole and complete.
That being the case, who I
really am is omniscient, omnipresent, and
For ten years during my thirties, I had taken the
Werner Erhard EST seminars. Werner is not an
Advaitan, but he’s a brilliant
teacher. Many times I had heard him state emphatically, “This is it.
how life turned out. Stop expecting it to be different.” He also said, “Life has
meaning. Get used to it. Life has no meaning—and it has no meaning that
it has no meaning!” For
years, I wondered what it would be like to be able
to really comprehend such statements. Somehow,
Sailor Bob had a similar
message, said in different words. But he said them in a way I could grasp.
And it was all simple and painless. It was as if we were little children
entranced by the beautiful
blue ocean, and Bob handed us empty buckets and
said, “Go fetch me some blue water from the sea,
and watch what happens.” It
was exciting beyond description.
The effects of this understanding have ranged from
changes so simple and normal they are barely
worth mentioning to a radical
shift in life. While “The Bobs,” as we sometimes called them, were
visitors were streaming through our house, I was so busy—and so excited—there
was no way
to fully appreciate the changes that were occurring. A few weeks
after they left, however, I
noticed a blatant “before and after” effect.
Life before Sailor Bob and life after. The most
initially, occurred every time I awoke from sleep. Before Bob, my first
thoughts upon awakening were directly connected to feeling separate,
limited, and incomplete. And
they were always accompanied by some
corresponding desire that when fulfilled would supposedly set
right. There was often a sense of impending doom and a probing of what could
go wrong. This was naturally followed by a strategy of how to
control any problem or potential
predicament. Even in the best of times,
there was always something missing and always something
needed. The kicker
was that no matter which desire might get fulfilled, the feeling of separateness
and incompleteness never abated. Not even close. I could never get enough of
what would not bring
peace. Still, desires persisted. If, as they say, the
definition of insanity is doing the same
action and expecting different
results, I should have been placed in an insane asylum decades ago.
After Bob’s teaching, waking from sleep is
radically different. Instead of feeling something is
lacking and needs
fixing, there is a sense of wholeness and completion. There is nothing missing,
no sense of “becoming,” and no worries about the future. There is finally a
sense of belonging.
Instead of a bunch of niggling, needy thoughts and
desires demanding attention, there is simply
life as is—presence awareness,
moment by moment. The experience is so normal and undramatic it is
worth mentioning. But it is so contrary to my previous life it is still
surprising—and it is
a relief beyond description.