Nonduality – not ‘the quality or opposition of being dual (two).’
— not ‘the opposition between two concepts or aspects.’ (Oxford English Dictionary)
Or to put it simply ‘not two’ (of anything). It is put this way, rather than saying ‘all is one’, for the very term ‘one’ implies (that there could be) two or more… In fact the term ‘nonmultiplicity’ would be more accurate for what is being suggested here is ‘not many’ rather than ‘not two’.
What we are trying to get a handle on here is that there is actually no (permanently existing) thing in existence, and that all apparent ‘things’ are manifestations of the same essence.
This can be shown by investigating the nature of our own subjective experiences, which is actually all that any of us have to investigate. For each of us any external object or thing is experienced as a combination of thought (including mental images) and sensation, i.e. you may see it, touch it, know what it is called, and so on … Thus everything in the external world is experienced as a mixture of thoughts and sensations, and when we attempt to investigate any ‘thing’ it is these that we are investigating.
In any given moment of direct experience there are only three elements: thoughts (including all mental images), sensations (everything detected by the senses) and awareness of these thoughts and sensations. All thoughts and sensations are ephemeral objects (the perceived) which appear in this awareness (the perceiver) which is the constant subject. So at a deeper level than the ever-changing objects (thoughts and sensations) we are this constant subject, awareness itself.
To put this in a slightly different way, we can easily notice that every thought and sensation occurs in awareness, exists in awareness and dissolves back into awareness. Before any particular thought or sensation there is effortless awareness of ‘what is’: the sum of all thoughts and sensations occurring at any given instant. During the thought or sensation in question there is effortless awareness of it within ‘what is’. Then when it has gone there is still effortless awareness of ‘what is’.
Reiterating, for each of us any external object (or thing) is experienced as a combination of thought and sensation, i.e. you see it, touch (feel) it, know what it is called, etc. Therefore in our direct experience everything arises in, exists in and subsides back into awareness itself.
Awareness can also be defined as universal consciousness when it is totally at rest, completely still; aware of every movement that is occurring within it. In our direct experience we can see that awareness is still, as there is awareness of the slightest movement of mind or body. In fact this is the ‘stillness’ relative to which any movement can be known. Every ‘thing’ that is occurring in consciousness is a manifestation of cosmic energy, for the string theory and the earlier theory of relativity show that matter is in fact energy, which is consciousness in motion (or motion in consciousness). For energy is synonymous with motion and consciousness is the substratum, or deepest level, of all existence.
Now all motion arises in stillness, exists in stillness, is known by its comparison with stillness, and eventually subsides back into stillness. For example, if you walk across a room, before you start there is stillness, as you walk the room is still and you know you are moving relative to this stillness, and when you stop once again there is stillness. In the same way every ‘thing’ (consciousness in motion) arises in awareness (consciousness at rest), exists in awareness, is known in awareness and subsides back into awareness. Awareness is still, but is the container of all potential energy which is continually bubbling up into manifestation (physical energy) and then subsiding back into stillness.
Thus there is no dichotomy or duality between the physical world and ‘awareness’ for they are both manifestations of the same essence. The physical universe is just cosmic energy (consciousness in motion) when it is manifest into physical form, and awareness (consciousness at rest) contains this same energy in latent form as potential energy. Therefore there is in reality no multiplicity (nonduality) as there is only consciousness existing in two modes, in motion and at rest.
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Colin Drake is the author of
Beyond the ‘Separate Self’
The End of Anxiety and Mental Suffering