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REFLECTIONS ON NONDUALITY AND DUALITY

REFLECTIONS ON NONDUALITY AND DUALITY

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Published by Charles Day
An essay describing ways in which we can move from experiencing life only dualistically into becoming enlightened and experiencing the timeless presence and peace the surpasses understanding.proclaimed by the mystics throughout the ages.
An essay describing ways in which we can move from experiencing life only dualistically into becoming enlightened and experiencing the timeless presence and peace the surpasses understanding.proclaimed by the mystics throughout the ages.

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Published by: Charles Day on May 10, 2013
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NONDUALITY AND DUALITYCharles Day*www.DesMoinesMeditation.org charlesday1@mchsi.com
(Note: The repetition in this essay is intended to help the reader move fromintellectually understanding the concept of nonduality to knowing it as theunderlying timeless presence of all dualistic experience.)
 A beginning student of meditation and Buddhism said he experiences somecontrol over his life, though realizing most things happen outside hiscontrol. He said he experiences separateness as a reality because he and Iare different individuals with different thoughts, and things outside his bodyare obviously not him. Many students question for years whether theseshared, common, and ordinary experiences disprove Buddhism'sfundamental concepts of nonduality, selflessness, and the illusion of separateness.From a mystical, enlightened, nondualistic point of view we live in an infiniteinterdependent universe which functions as an undivided unified whole.Everything mental and physical is interrelated with and caused byeverything else. But since any experience can only be experienceddualistically - an undivided whole cannot experience itself - we erroneouslyconclude that the experiencer is separate from the experience, and we areindependent, autonomous individuals who control what we think and do.Ideas that individuals differ, have different thoughts, and experienceautonomy and independence are dualistic thoughts used to express theindividuated parts of an undivided whole and cannot be consideredseparate from each other. ("Individuated" is used in this essay as anadjective to imply indivisible interdependence as opposed to the adjective"individual" which suggests the reality of a separate existence.)The unified whole, of course, manifests itself in unique individuated way -e.g., no two snowflakes are alike, no two personalities are alike - but for themystic, the subject-object relationship, the primary sense of dualisticseparateness, is seen though as an illusion.Science now validates what spiritual mystics have said for centuries: Allphysical and mental phenomena are inextricably and interdependently
 
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related. Everything exists as form or energy in a causal relationship witheverything else throughout endless time and infinite space.While we don't subjectively experience reality or ourselves at subatomiclevels, even the grosser physical and mental forms of our direct experienceare interrelated. For example, you identify with the whole body, not itsinterdependent internal parts, unless a part calls attention to itself becauseof injury, illness, or aging. And you may be reading this on a computer manufactured by workers in China, shipped by planes and flown by pilotsfrom different countries, distributed by wholesalers, and sold by retailersthroughout the US. Or perhaps you're reading this on paper made fromtrees, nourished by soil aerated by insects, and dependent for growth onthe rain, clouds, sun and the entire cosmos. Everything is relatedthroughout space. And you are related throughout time to your parents, ancestors, andevolution all the way back to the big bang or whatever you believe was thecause of existence. Everything and everyone is interrelated throughoutendless time and infinite space. Buddhist Master Thich Nhat Hanh calls thisreality "interbeing."Why should we want to realize interbeing, nonduality, or enlightenment?Because, according to the mystics, the suffering, frustration, restlessness,and boredom that often arise in experiencing only the duality andimpermanence of life will be dramatically diminished, if not entirelyovercome.What appears as reality is a mental formationReality is experienced in the mind as a mental formation, a Buddhist termthat includes all mental constructs and events: thoughts, feelings,emotions, sensations, perceptions, cognitions, images, dreams, memories,altered states, parapsychological phenomena, all mental experiences.These mental formations continually change as a result of the interactionbetween an individual's genetic predispositions, past experiences, and thephysiological internal and external circumstances occurring in the presentmoment.The mental formation called a thought, which is composed of differentwords, and the sequencing of thoughts which occurs in thinking,conversing, listening to music, observing a sunset, or writing an essay only
 
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appear to occur over time. Time itself is a mental construct. There is onlythe content of consciousness in the moment of its experience. Thoughtsabout past and future occur as present-moment thoughts.Moreover, there is no awareness of a thought until after it occurs. The mindcan only experience what has taken place after it has already passed. If one is truly in the present moment, there is no one or anything to be awareof. Even mindfulness is dualistic when interpreted as the act of intentionallygiving one's full attention to present-moment activity without judgment,commentary, or reactivity. In nonduality there is no separation betweenawareness or mindfulness and its objects, between thinker and thoughts,between past and present. Are you ever aware of a complete thought before you begin or end it,unless of course you intentionally memorize or rehearse it? Or are you ever aware of a perception before it occurs or after it disappears in the mind?Each perception is continually replaced by another perception that alsoarises and disappears. Words and thoughts are spoken, heard, andinterpreted as having meaning because of conditioned beliefs in memory,time, and cause and effect, which themselves are just assumptions or thoughts unconsciously taken for granted.Thoughts and other mental formations always occur as part of an unfoldinginterdependent whole within a body-mind entity that is itself an interrelatedpart of that same nondualistic whole. Thinking, thinker, thought, and theobjects of thought are interdependent; one does not exist without theothers.There is no universal reality. Each individual's thoughts and mentalformations constitute one's uniquely perceived reality. From the mysticalstandpoint of nonduality, if these multiple realities were realized as mereproducts of the mind, compassion would arise to reduce the harms causedwhen different individual, religious, ethnic, and national realities clash.Individual differences in judgments, opinions, values, and points of viewwould still appear, but they would be accepted rather than fought over. Wewould agree to disagree. And whenever differences did provoke individualsor groups, out of ignorance of their interdependence, into verbally or physically attacking others, those attacked would defend themselves incompassionate rather than angry or punitive ways.

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