The following FAQ attempts to answer some of the more commonly asked questions that people have when first being introduced to nondual teachings. If you have other questions that we can help answer, please submit them via our contact form. You can also ask questions or add to the discussion in the comments section below.
What is nonduality?
The preeminent quality of nondual realization is the direct, experiential recognition that ‘you’, as you think of yourself, do not actually exist in the way that you ‘think’ you do. It has to do with the nature of our conditioned minds – at least at first. We’ve been taught to see the world a certain way – to see it as separate or apart from ourselves; to see ourselves as separate or apart from it. We’ve been drawn into a story about the way things are that simply isn’t true. We’ve become so immersed in, and identified with this story that we’ve lost ourselves to it. Nonduality is the clear seeing of things as they are, without our conditioned filters. It is to see through the illusion of ‘self’ and into that which exists ‘before’ the mind comes into being; into that which is ‘prior’ to the mind. There are many other things that can be said about awakening from the dream of duality, but no point is more fundamentally important than this one – everything hangs on this single premise. For as long as you see yourself as isolated, separated, and apart from the whole, you remain caught in the net of duality. When the illusion of a separate self has been seen through, everything falls into place on its own – just like it has been doing all along.
How does nonduality differ from common ‘new age’ and ‘new thought’ spiritual teachings?
There are actually many similarities, but if you look closely at most of these types of teachings, they usually emphasize changing yourself, bettering yourself, and making yourself a happier, healthier human being. It is, in fact, this promise that is its central draw. Many people find great comfort in new age and new thought philosophies and derive tremendous value from them; and indeed they can lead to amazingly beautiful transformations within the varying expressions of egoic consciousness. But these levels of transformation remain bound by the illusion of a self that has no fundamental reality to it. To better a self that does not exist is to remain trapped within the illusion of spiritual progress – a cleverly deceptive function of the ego. Nonduality does not seek to fix or correct anything, or make anything better – it simply reveals the illusory nature of the separate self that ‘thinks’ there is a problem to solve.
Isn’t nonduality just another belief system?
In its most direct form, nonduality is experientially recognized to be the absence of all beliefs and belief systems. Beliefs are usually based on conditioned patterns of thought that have been identified with to one degree or another. These thoughts are occurring in the mind. What nonduality ultimately reveals is that you are not the mind – and that you can perceive reality from a place within yourself that is beyond the mind. There is something that is experienced within you that creates a fundamental, undeniable, unexplainable shift in conscious perception that allows for thoughts to come and go, including thoughts about beliefs, opinions, and preferences, but no longer sees them as real and no longer identifies with them as such. If there is a belief present, then the mind is speaking. But your understanding and acceptance of things – as they are – allows you to dismiss all workings of the mind as illusory projections of a conditioned conceptual viewpoint; no more right or wrong than any other illusory projection of a conditioned conceptual viewpoint. In other words, all beliefs are either equally valid or equally invalid, because they are all of an illusory nature.
Why have I never heard of nonduality?
You probably have, but did not recognize it because you were looking through a narrow lens. It is fully present in the teachings of Jesus as explained by the Gnostics and Christian mystics. It was the primary instruction of the Buddha and remains encapsulated in Zen and many other Buddhist sects. It is the central theme of Advaita Vedanta in Hinduism and repeated over and over again in the Vedas, Upanishads, and Gitas. It is the essence of loving surrender that forms the basis for all Islamic Sufi writings. It is the experiential revealing of God as our ultimate reality presented in Jewish Kabbalah. It is the mysterious nature of the Tao. It is the hidden gem buried deeply in the heart of all ancient wisdom traditions. It is a timeless invitation into a reality that exists just beyond the minds ability to comprehend.