Master Nome defining Non-Duality in Shankara’s system
The basic premise of Non-Duality is that the Absolute exists & that the Absolute is identical with oneself. Therefore, Self-Knowledge is equated with the Realization of the Absolute. The basic premise of spiritual practice is that one knows that the Absolute exists & that realizing it is of utmost importance. This realization is Self-Realization. What is needed for this Self-Knowledge, or Realization, is the relinquishment of the assumptions, or concepts, that yield the illusion of Bondage &, thus, Suffering. Knowledge of one’s real Being as it is yields enduring Freedom & Peace. The true Self transcends the limitations of any kind of individuality, time, birth & death. It is impersonal & not confined to any Body or Individual.
One’s approach to one’s spirituality, Meditation, & this Knowledge is of paramount importance, for the approach very much determines the experience. How one views anything determines how it appears to him. Clarification of one’s understanding of oneself causes one to arrive at Self-Knowledge. To know this as so is itself the dawning of knowledge. Deep Meditation dissolves the Ego, Ignorance, & Bondage of the one who ardently meditates. Self-Inquiry within oneself to know oneself reveals the true Self to be limitless Consciousness, Absolute Being, & unconditioned Bliss. This is one’s very Existence.
One should continue meditating on the teachings of Self-Knowledge by the practice of Self-Inquiry until one conclusively realizes the Self & abides without the least trace of Ignorance or Bondage. Listening, reflection, & deep meditation [shravana, manana nididhyasana] are said to constitute ways of practicing Knowledge. Inquiring “Who am I ?”, knowing oneself free of mis-identification, & steady abidance as the Self always are the inner experiences of these.
On the path of Self-Knowledge “Discrimination” signifies ability to discern what is true & also implies the ability to determine the false or unreal from the Real. By so discerning, or discriminating one pursues Truth to realize it & destroys the dream of Illusion or Ignorance. Ignorance creates suffering. What destroys Ignorance reveals blissful Freedom, or Liberation. Ignorance is destroyed when one discerns that it is, indeed, Ignorance & not the Truth. Ignorance exists & is binding only if one conjures it up & believes it. If by Discrimination, one discerns the unreality of Ignorance, or its false nature, it no longer binds & simply ceases to exist. In its place is found real Knowledge, which is Knowledge of the Reality itself. Just as one, wishing to arrive somewhere, needs to 1st know where it is that he wishes to go & how to proceed to there, so, too, one needs to recognize that the place of arrival, which is the highest Truth, the means to arrive, which is Knowledge, & the traveler, which is oneself are all in the same place, of the same nature, & are, indeed, the very same thing.
Regardless of what names are given to the Supreme, regardless of what symbols are used, & what practices are utilized, there are certain views that are assumed around which all these names, etc. revolve. These understandings, views, or beliefs pertain to the Absolute, the Self, & what is regarded as Real, which in many cases will be the World or worlds. The great sage, Adi Shankara, for simplicity, observed that one can hold consider 4 views. One can adhere to an Un-Qualified Duality [UQD] view. This means the sheer God-World Duality of organized, exoteric religion.
On the other hand, one can possess a view of Qualified Duality [QD]. This is a belief in Duality with some exceptions. Alternately, one may hold a view of Qualified Non-Duality [QND], that is, some Non-Duality while retaining some exceptions with “partial” Non-Duality.
At the highest, one can embrace pure, Un-Qualified Non-Duality [UQND]. The view to which one adheres will determine what kinds of spiritual practices are engaged in & how they are practiced. These are not only basic views, forming one’s beliefs, determining the manner of practice & the resultant experiences, but also represent degrees of depth, or height, of spiritual experience. Each succeeding one is more of the Truth, less of the Ego, more of Liberation, less of Bondage, more of Knowledge, & less of unexamined Ignorance.
In one’s spiritual aspiration, one necessarily has a view of what the Absolute is, be it a set of ideas or a result of inner experience. The deeper the experience, the more the view is transcendent of notions & the more Non-Dual it is. An Un-Qualified Duality [UQD] view asserts that the Absolute is one thing & oneself another. There is a God, by whatever name called, & there is a separate soul, by whatever name called, & these are regarded as different in every respect. Though there may be similarities, such as both lasting forever, they are regarded as different as 2 distinct Objects are different (regardless of partial “made in the image” allusions). With such an approach, one practices to establish some relation to the Supreme, the Lord, but there is no union or merger. Even in a heavenly realm, the distinction still persists.
In Duality, the Absolute is viewed as if with all the qualities of a person, but on a grander scale, distinct from all others. A Qualified Duality [QD] view supposes the Absolute to be one thing & oneself another, but there is some sameness due to relation. The Absolute may be regarded as one’s source, just as a spark has fire as its source, but it is not regarded as the same as the fire itself. The Absolute may be regarded as something to which one will eventually return, but it is not regarded as the same as one’s own state now or as one’s nature. With such a view, spiritual practice maintains a relation to the Absolute with the knowledge that one was once part of that limitless Being & one may return to it. But, for now, one must seek to deepen one’s relation to that God. The Supreme is viewed as similar to a person, yet on a grander scale, but which has left its mark, spark, or a trace of itself in the individual. With Qualified Duality [QD] as one’s view, spiritual practice again aims at the strengthening of the relation with the Lord, the Supreme, with more or a merger in mind.
The view of Qualified Non-Duality [QND] is that the Absolute is of the same nature as oneself, one’s self being of the same nature as it, though there are distinctions, such as a difference in vastness, steadiness of experience, & such. It is said to be as a glass of water & the ocean. They both are water, the same thing, yet they are not the same in magnitude. One’s understanding can extend to the point of viewing the Absolute as a background of All, or as a substrate of all, as that from which everything arises & to which all will return, & even as that which pervades everyone & everything with a distinction between the pervader & the pervaded. There can be experience of union, but this will be followed by separation again, though there can be a memory of the union while differentiation resumes. The individual experiencer remains, for whom all else arises, who thinks, who feels, who acts, & such. With the view of Qualified Non-Duality [QND], spiritual practice will be one of attempting merger or union. The Absolute is viewed more impersonally, as a greater intelligence or as some all-pervading presence.
In pure, or Un-Qualified Non-Duality [UQND], the Absolute is the Self, & the Self is the Absolute. There is no other Absolute & no other self. They are forever indivisible. Union is ever the reality, or it may be said there is never a division at any time. All differentiation is regarded as the mis-perception of a Rope to be a Snake; it is purely Ignorance, or imagination, & never Real at anytime. There is no individuality, & the Ego-death or destruction of that ignorant Ego-assumption, with its concomitant ideas of all else, is by Knowledge. The practice is one of Knowledge, the prime method of which is Self-inquiry, the finding of the answer within oneself to the introspective Inquiry question, “Who am I ?”
Knowledge, itself is the path, or the means of spiritual practice, & the method of meditation is Self-Inquiry. In Non-Duality, the aim of the reception & absorption of spiritual instruction is the Knowledge of “That thou art,” as the Upanishad declares. In Non-Duality, the Absolute is known as Existence itself, or as Consciousness, itself Meditations on the substrate, the background, the all-pervading One, & such are understood as steps & not the final Reality. Reality, itself, is immutable, forever indivisible, always present, & without–a–2nd or anything other.
The view of oneself may be a collection of mis-identifications, or it may be actual Knowledge of oneself. The deeper, or higher, the view, the more Non-Dual it will be. It is Duality when one’s identity, the “self” is regarded as an individual soul encased within a Body. It will thus be always less than & different from God. Even alter Death, there will be a soul with another kind of Body. even if it be more subtle. Because of mis-identification, all the activities of the Mind & Body are regarded as one’s own, & the existence of the Ego is unquestioned. Yet one dedicates these activities in service to God according to His will, thus attenuating the influence of Egotism. So goes the progress from Duality to Non-Duality. [Here we forgo grammatical correction to non-dualism & dualism in favor of the historically more familiar Non-Duality & Duality, favoring the greater impact of these sounds. ]
In Qualified Duality [QD], the self is regarded as an individual soul with a spark of the divine within it. The soul should be guided by that spark. There is identity will all the activities of the Body & Mind & no real questioning of the existence of the Ego, but the inner divinity can guide these in addition to the will of God in an outer way.
In Qualified Non-Duality [QND], the “self” is regarded as the experiencer. This may be as a sensing entity or as a mental entity. Even as a sensing entity, the emphasis will still be on the awareness incorporated in the sensory experience, because anything spiritual presumes one is not identifying as a mere Body seeking mere sensory things. If there is merger, the experiencer remains or returns as the “ongoing reality”’ & the higher experience is regarded as that which comes & goes. The attributes of the Ego may be questioned or released, such as aspects of the Mind or tendencies of thought, but the Ego itself or Individuality, is not actually inquired into. The Individual is the one who is attempting to combine the higher experiences with the retained belief of a manifest World, which is perceived, or conceived, by a process of mis-identification.
In Qualified pure Non-Duality [UQND], the Self is known to be pure, Formless Being-Consciousness-Bliss, with no Individuality at all, & not defined by a Mind or a Body. It is not a “self” or a “soul”, but the Non-Dual Self, without limit, definition, or form. It is the Reality, without coming or going, without Birth or Death. It is utterly impersonal & attributeless. The Non-Dual practice is that of singular Self-Inquiry to know the Self; not the Self in relation to anything else, but to know it as it is free of mis-identification. The Self is free of Subject & Object, & the Knowledge of the Self is non-objective. Hence, it is Self-Knowledge in which the Knower & the known are the same. One practices Self-inquiry so as to abide in steady Knowledge of the Self.
In Un-Qualified Duality [UQD], Qualified Duality [QD], & Qualified Non-Duality [QND], Knowledge becomes increasingly important. In Un-Qualified Non-Duality [UQND], Knowledge is of paramount importance for Knowledge alone destroys Ignorance, & what one seeks is to experience Reality as it is. To the degree that there is an increase of Knowledge of the Self, even accidentally, to that degree is spiritual advancement occurring in any spiritual practice undertaken with any view.
In Non-Duality, since the Absolute & one’s Self are identical, it is all-important to realize the Self. Since the Self is the Reality, which ever is, & all differentiation is only imagined in Ignorance, the Realization comes by, & is identical with, the Knowledge of the Self, which alone destroys Ignorance. Since it is imperative to know oneself, the practice is that of Self-Inquiry to know the Self. When one recognizes that Non-Duality must be what is true, one takes the path to realize it.
What one regards as real is, or becomes, one’s experience. According to the degree of Duality or Non-Duality, what is regarded as real will be different. In all cases, there must be the breaking of attachment to the things of the World, but the depth reached thereafter is different. In Un-Qualified Duality [UQD] the World is regarded as real. It is the creation of the Supreme, God, unless one is an Atheist, in which case it is an accident of matter, but such would not be any spiritual view at all. The World is regarded as external, one seems to dwell in it, & the Supreme seems elsewhere. The determination of Reality is the Senses & the mental cognition of the same. In Duality, God is regarded as one part of Reality, & the Individuals, the World, & God seem as 3 distinct things.
In Qualified Duality [QD], the World is regarded as real & created, but it is the splendor, or manifestation, of the Supreme. Some part of the Supreme manifests its presence in the World in various ways. The World may be viewed its God’s “Eternal Play” [lila], or as something that is temporarily “arising”. The determination of Reality is still the senses & the Mind. The Supreme is seen as one part of the Reality, but it has left its spark, or something of itself in the individuals & in the World.
In Qualified Non-Duality [QND], the World is regarded as real as a projection of the Supreme, as a Dream of God, as a Creation of the Mind, as the Mind’s play, as the energy of Consciousness, or as similar to these. The determination of Reality is still with the Senses & the Mind, & the Objective aspect is regarded as existent yet, in nature, more subtle than matter. Therefore, the Absolute, or the Self, is regarded as only one part of Reality, & not the only reality. In Un-Qualified pure Non-Duality [QND], there is no embodied Individual &, so, no World perceived by the Individual or the Body.
[The above themes & 1600 pages more are freely available as perused or downloaded PDF’s, the sole occupants of a Public Microsoft Skydrive “Public Folder” accessible through www.jpstiga.com ]