From Ignorance to Understanding; from Understanding to LoveWhy is it that speakers of non-duality use arguments which employ duality to make their point?
It has always struck me as a little strange that the man in the street, who has never heard of non-duality, talks in terms of “I am my body and I am my mind” (he talks with with a sense of oneness) whereas the man who is well versed in non-duality talks in terms of “I am not my body and I am not my mind” (and talks with a sense of separation or duality). Why is it that speakers of non-duality use arguments which employ duality to make their point?
When the man in the street, who has never heard of non-duality, talks in terms of “I am my body and I am my mind,” he does not talk with a sense of oneness. This is a position that I sometimes call Conventional Duality – sometimes referred to as ‘ignorance’ – in which experience is considered to be divided into two essential ingredients: one, ‘I’, the body/mind – the subject – and two, things, others and the world – the object.
As a first step towards the true nature of experience, the teaching points out that the mind and body are not the subject of experience but are rather objects of our attention. As such, the teaching reformulates experience in this way: it is not ‘I’ the body/mind that is aware of the world, it is ‘I’, Awareness, that is aware of the body/mind/world. In this halfway stage there is still duality: a subject and an object. Hence, I sometimes call it Enlightened Duality.
This step is a pedagogical step – I am not this, not this, not this – which relieves us of our exclusive identification with the body and mind. It is a path of exclusion.
In the next step, which is a path of inclusion – I am this, I am this, I am this – the apparent distinction between Awareness and the objects of the body, mind and world is collapsed or, more accurately, seen never to have existed. I sometimes call this Embodied Enlightenment – in which there is no longer an apparent subject or object of experience – to distinguish it from Enlightened Duality in which the apparent subject and object has not yet been seen through.
In other words, in the Path of Exclusion we move from the belief ‘I am something’ to the understanding ‘I am nothing’; in the Path of Inclusion we move from the understanding ‘I am nothing’, to the feeling-understanding ‘I am everything’.
We find these stages in most spiritual traditions: in the Buddhist tradition first there is Samsara, then Nirvana, then the distinction between the two is realised to be non-existent. First form, then emptiness, and then no distinction.
From ignorance to understanding; from understanding to love.
And essay from my book, Presence, which deals with this subject in more detail, can be found here.
With Kind regards,