What is Nonduality?
I’m frequently asked “what is nonduality?” I should know, right? After all, I do something called nondual teaching and run a non-profit called The Center for Nondual Awareness. And yet I can’t “know” what it is because nonduality is not an object of knowledge. It is not an idea, philosophy, or system of thought.
I often find myself saying things like “nonduality is what is here prior to our thoughts.” But of course nonduality is not really a state which is annihilated once a thought appears. I might say that “nonduality is simply this,” but of course I’m not pointing to any thing. If the mind interprets “this” to have any particular content, like “this space” or “this moment” then we’re missing again. Of course I can’t even really say that nonduality doesn’t have any particular content because nothing is outside nonduality. Not that there is any thing to be inside!
So why talk about nonduality at all, then? This type of question often comes up fast in a conversation that is directly revealing the limits of thought. Like thought is insisting that if it can’t be thought it doesn’t matter. And conveniently, what we think matters is always a thought – a made-up fiction. And we can’t even claim to have made it up ourselves because we can’t find any experience where a “me” makes a thought. If you think you are doing this – what will your next thought be?
At this point the mind might try to close again by coming up with some conciliatory thought such as “okay that’s interesting, now we’ve got that squared away let’s get back to what matters.” But another possibility might be that we remain open, available to “what is” without readily substituting our familiar two-dimensional thoughts for the rich, subtle, undefinable quality of direct experience. We might tune in to nonduality, the whole truth, rather than just believing our interpretations. The invitation to discover what nonduality really is, is an invitation to open beyond our thoughts again and again, to move our eyes from the image to the truth, to awaken from our thought-dream to the vivid aliveness of this.