Nondualism in Advaita, Buddhism, Christianity, Gnosticism, Sufism, Taoism
- Dear Friends,
Below are brief descriptions of Nondualism from Wikipedia on several traditions:
Advaita, Buddhism, Christianity, Gnosticism, Sufism, and Taoism. The Wikipedia
description on Nondualism only includes these, so none are being excluded here
in this newsletter. I hope you enjoy these.
In loving service,
NONDUAL RELIGIOUS AND SPIRITUAL TRADITIONS
Advaita (Sanskrit a, not; dvaita, dual) is a nondual tradition from India, with
Advaita Vedanta, a branch of Hinduism, as its philosophical arm. The theory was
first consolidated by Sri Adi Shankaracharya in the 8th century AD. Most
smarthas are adherents to this theory of the nature of the soul (Brahman).
According to Ramana Maharshi, the jnani (one who has realised the Self) sees no
individual ego, and does not regard himself (or anyone else) as a "doer" of
actions. The state of recognition is called jnana which means "knowledge" or
"wisdom" referring to the idea that in this state of being, one is constantly
aware of the Self. Bob Adamson (Melbourne, Australia), once a student of
Nisargadatta Maharaj, who belonged to the Navanath Sampradaya lineage, says that
a 'Jnani' is the 'knowing presence' which abides with all (of us) yet this
knowing is seemingly covered over by identification with the 'minds content'.
Ramesh Balsekar comments that it is in order for phenomenae to occur, that the
illusion of personal existence and doer-ship (ego) is present:
"Consciousness-at-rest is not aware of Itself. It becomes aware of Itself only
when this sudden feeling, I-am, arises, the impersonal sense of being aware. And
that is when Consciousness-at-rest becomes Consciousness-in-movement, Potential
energy becomes actual energy. They are not two. Nothing separate comes out of
Potential energy... That moment that science calls the Big Bang, the mystic
calls the sudden arising of awareness..."
However, teachers like Adamson point to the fact that the content of the mind is
known, recognized by a presence or awareness that is independent of the mind's
content. Adamson teaches that we form an identity based on the content of the
mind (feelings, sensations, hopes, dreams, thoughts), however our true identity
or nature is that which observes all of these things - the seer, the witness or
All schools of Buddhism teach No-Self (Pali anatta, Sanskrit anatman). No-Self
in Buddhism is the Non-Duality of Subject and Object, which is very explicitly
stated by the Buddha in verses such as "In seeing, there is just seeing. No seer
and nothing seen. In hearing, there is just hearing. No hearer and nothing
heard.". Non-Duality in Buddhism does not constitute merging with a supreme
Brahman, but realising that the duality of a self/subject/agent/watcher/doer in
relation to the object/world is an illusion.
In the Mahayana Buddhist canon, the Diamond Sutra presents an accessible nondual
view of "self" and "beings", while the Heart Sutra asserts shunyata the
"emptiness" of all "things" and simultaneously the "thingness" of all
"emptiness". The Lotus Sutra's parable of the Burning House implies that all
talk of Duality or Non-Duality by Buddhas and Bodhisattvas is merely Skillful
Means (Sanskrit upaya kausala) meant to lead the deluded to a much higher truth.
The fullest philosophical exposition is the Madhyamaka; by contrast many laconic
pronouncements are delivered as koans. Advanced views and practices are found in
the Mahamudra and Maha Ati, which emphasize the vividness and spaciousness of
Mahayana Buddhism, in particular, tempers the view of nonduality (wisdom) with
respect for the experience of duality (compassion) ordinary dualistic
experience, populated with selves and others (sentient beings), is tended with
care, always "now". This approach is itself regarded as a means to disperse the
confusions of duality (i.e. as a path). In Theravada, that respect is expressed
cautiously as non-harming, while in the Vajrayana, it is expressed boldly as
enjoyment (especially in tantra).
Dzogchen is a relatively esoteric (to date) tradition concerned with the
"natural state", and emphasizing direct experience. This tradition is found in
the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, where it is classified as the highest
of this lineage's nine yanas, or vehicles of practice. Similar teachings are
also found in the non-Buddhist Bön tradition. In Dzogchen, the primordial state,
the state of nondual awareness, is called rigpa.
The Dzogchen practitioner realizes that appearance and emptiness are
inseparable. One must transcend dualistic thoughts to perceive the true nature
of one's pure mind. This primordial nature is clear light, unproduced and
unchanging, free from all defilements. One's ordinary mind is caught up in
dualistic conceptions, but the pure mind is unafflicted by delusions. Through
meditation, the Dzogchen practitioner experiences that thoughts have no
substance. Mental phenomena arise and fall in the mind, but fundamentally they
are empty. The practioner then considers where the mind itself resides. The mind
can not exist in the ever-changing external phenomena and through careful
examination one realizes that the mind is emptiness. All dualistic conceptions
disappear with this understanding.
Zen is a non-dual tradition. It can be considered a religion, a philosophy, or
simply a practice depending on one's perspective. It has also been described as
a way of life, work, and an art form. Zen practitioners deny the usefulness of
such labels, calling them, "The finger pointing at the moon." Tozan, one of the
founders of Soto Zen in China, had a teaching known as the Five Ranks of the
Real and the Ideal, which points out the necessity of not getting caught in a
dualism between duality and non-duality, and describes the stages of further
transcendance. Naturally, many in the Zen schools became bogged down in this
text, so that later masters, notably Dogen Zenji , were quite scathing about
The God of traditional Christianity is absolute and infinite. The devil or
adversary is an opposing character, but is subordinate to God. The Christian
faith thus does not consider the duality of good and evil to be two equal and
opposing forces. Mystical Christianity can be entirely non-dual, as in the
teachings of Meister Eckhart or St. John of the Cross, among others.
A Course in Miracles or ACIM is a modern day Christian non-dualistic teaching.
This tradition states, "Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists.
Herein lies the peace of God."
Christian Science might also qualify as non-dualistic. In a glossary of terms
written by the founder, Mary Baker Eddy, matter is defined as illusion and when
defining individual identity she writes "There is but one I, or Us, but one
divine Principle, or Mind, governing all existence".
Since its beginning, Gnosticism has been characterized by many dualisms and
dualities, including the doctrine of a separate God and Manichaean (good/evil)
dualism. The discovery in 1945 of the Gospel of Thomas, however, has led some
scholars to believe that Jesus' original teaching may have been one accurately
characterized as nondualism.
The Gospel of Philip, another of the Apocryphal books, also conveys nondualism:
"Light and Darkness, life and death, right and left, are brothers of one
another. They are inseparable. Because of this neither are the good good, nor
evil evil, nor is life life, nor death death. For this reason each one will
dissolve into its earliest origin. But those who are exalted above the world are
indissoluble, eternal." 
Although some may claim Gnosticism to be a dualistic world-view, it ultimately
is not because of its firm belief in one true ineffable God.
Sufism (Arabic تصوف taṣawwuf, meaning "Mysticism")
is often considered a mystical tradition of Islam. There are a number of
different Sufi orders that follow the teachings of particular spiritual masters,
but the bond that unites all Sufis is the concept of ego annihilation (removal
of the subject/object dichotomy between humankind and the divine) through
various spiritual exercises and a persistent, ever-increasing longing for union
with the divine. "The goal," as Reza Aslan writes, "is to create an inseparable
union between the individual and the Divine."
The central doctrine of Sufism, sometimes called Wahdat-ul-Wujood or Wahdat
al-Wujud or Unity of Being, is the Sufi understanding of Tawhid (the oneness of
God; absolute monotheism). Put very simply, for Sufis, Tawhid implies that all
phenomena are manifestations of a single reality, or Wujud (being), which is
indeed al-Haq (Truth, God). The essence of Being/Truth/God is devoid of every
form and quality, and hence unmanifest, yet it is inseparable from every form
and phenomenon, either material or spiritual. It is often understood to imply
that every phenomenon is an aspect of Truth and at the same time attribution of
existence to it is false. The chief aim of all Sufis then is to let go of all
notions of duality (and therefore of the individual self also), and realize the
divine unity which is considered to be the truth.
Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, (1207-1273), one of the most famous Sufi masters and
poets, has written that what humans perceive as duality is in fact a veil,
masking the reality of the Oneness of existence. "All desires, preferences,
affections, and loves people have for all sorts of things," he writes, are
veils. He continues: "When one passes beyond this world and sees that Sovereign
(God) without these 'veils,' then one will realize that all those things were
'veils' and 'coverings' and that what they were seeking was in reality that
One." The veils, or rather, duality, exists for a purpose, however, Rumi
contends. If God as the divine, singular essence of all existence were to be
made fully manifest to us, he counsels, we would not be able to bear it and
would immediately cease to exist as individuals.
Taoism's wu wei (Chinese wu, not; wei, doing) is a term with various
translations (e.g. inaction, non-action, nothing doing, without ado) and
interpretations designed to distinguish it from passivity. From a nondual
perspective, it refers to activity that does not imply an "I". The concept of
Yin and Yang, often mistakenly conceived of as a symbol of dualism, is actually
meant to convey the notion that all apparent opposites are complementary parts
of a non-dual whole.