A Brief Introduction to Nonduality

16 Oct 2023

To understand what Nonduality is, I will first state what it isn’t. Nonduality isn’t a belief system, nor a practice. It is an understanding. The nondual understanding is knowing and feeling that we are:

  • One (not a self that’s separate from others and the world)
  • Awareness (consciousness, experiencing or knowing)
  • Happiness (we lack nothing)
  • Freedom (we’re without limits)
  • Beauty (we’re connected to everything)
  • Love (we’re connected to everyone)

Nonduality is what’s referred to as a non-conceptual understanding. These kind of teachings use concepts strategically to help you experience what’s beyond concepts - awareness.

Awareness is what allows you to know that you’re having an experience. It’s what everything arises in and as. All sensations, thoughts and perceptions are made of awareness.

Nondual paths are different from other spiritual paths. Nondual paths are often referred to as direct or pathless paths, because nondual teachings and meditations point you directly to the true nature of awareness. Nonduality is the understanding that you’re already one, so nondual teachings and meditations are simply strategies for knowing and feeling what’s already true.

The goal of any spiritual path is to see through the illusion of the separate self. This is true of both direct and indirect paths. The difference being that direct paths start with the investigation of this illusion, while indirect paths start with some kind of preliminary training. For example, with traditional Theravada Buddhism it’s generally taught that you need to train your concentration, morality and wisdom to become enlightened and live free from the suffering caused by the illusory belief in duality.

Does one really need to train their mind to see through illusions?

Take optical illusions for example: you don’t need to train your mind to recognize that the image isn’t actually moving. Once it was pointed out to you that it was illusory, and you changed the way you were looking at it, the true nature of the image became clear.

The same is true of knowing and feeling that the separate self is an illusion. You don’t need to train your mind, concentration, morality, and wisdom to see through the illusion of separation. You just need to see and feel your experience more clearly. That said, indirect paths and deliberately training your mind can be helpful. There’s no single teaching or path that works for everyone.

While my writings on this subject aren’t novel or groundbreaking, I mainly wrote this for the sake of my own learning. I’m certainly not an expert on nondual understandings, though what I’ve learned from my research on it has been fascinating to say the least.

You are capable of more than you can imagine.


This post was part of Agora Road Travelogue for the month of October.

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