Which Version of Nonduality is True? Which is Best?
Nonduality teachers come in a range of teachings. From the often folksy teachings of Mooji to the often stop-us-in-our-tracks teachings of Tony Parsons; the basic knowledge of ancient Advaita Vedanta has been repackaged for the modern world in various ways.
At one end of the spectrum, the many teachers near the Tony Parsons camp tell us that all that we hold as familiar and basic in life is illusion:
our opinions, our viewpoints, even our mind itself don’t matter because they are all dreamed. Only what happens, from moment to moment is true, they say. These teachers say that there is nothing to do, and nothing that can be done, to improve ourselves. We are already there, they say, and there is no magical enlightenment possible, simply the possibility of accepting life as happening just the way it happens, with no individual here to be improved.
At the other end of the spectrum, Mooji and others tell us that our familiar life is true, up to a point. Part of it is what we believe it, what we cling to or avoid, and that part is unreliable and temporary, the source of suffering. Another part of it, including many perceptions, thoughts, and even beliefs, are part of the practical mechanics of life, and so can be considered as true. There are exercises we can do, they say, that we should not consider to be rigid techniques, including introspection on what we are not (neti-neti), guided meditation, satsang, and allowing our attention to rest on the true Self, which is pure, unbounded consciousness. Practicing these over time, they say, will prepare the way for the spontaneous shifting of identity from our imagined separate self to unbounded timeless consciousness, the only reality that actually exists.
Are these two views really different, or the same? Are they equally useful to a seeker of peace and happiness?
While I suspect that a deep answer will take greater insight and time to develop than I have, I would like to propose that both views can be helpful, depending on the individual seeker.
Which do you resonate with most? Or do you sometimes resonate with one view and sometimes with another? Please post your insights and experience below. Also welcome are additions and corrections to these preliminary descriptions of the spectrum of nonduality.
Garden of Friends
Thank you David, what would be the qualitative difference if we would replace the idea of ‘seeker’ with ‘truth lover’?
Doesn’t ‘seeker’ by itself sound already very heavy; implying that there is something missing, whereas enlightenment is the taking away of faulty thinking, the recalibrating of the erroneous sense of “me” (memory-based) to the effortless presence “I am”.
Instead of “seeker” maybe “spiritual loser” would be more appropriate?
Losing attachment, losing misidentification, losing thinking errors, losing the sense of a separate-self…
Not to split hair, but what is meant with “spectrum of nonduality”?
Does “non-secondness” – the cause of the phenomena of life – have a spectrum?
Maybe a “spectrum of nonduality pointers”?
Sorry, I don’t want to get lost in words.
Thank you David for your article!
Mr. Jesus [Awareness] says: “Come now, let us reason together.”
We all sit in the same boat, one Awareness seemingly hypnotized by me, myself and i.
Dear David, to what degree are practices just candy for the mind, or props for the so called teacher to hide behind?
How to clarify and ease the seeming transition from “me” as I believe myself to be, to simply being as “I am”?
Theoretically it is super simple: just become aware of your mental effort (attention) and relax awareness back into its source.
But can the thinking mind (suffering) understand and agree to its own dissolution? Is the caterpillar afraid losing its familiar “me” while becoming a butterfly?
To what degree can “practice” be highjacked by a separate-self to endlessly prolong its fake reality?
What role plays the discernment between thinking and experience?
Love, trust, bravery, friendship…
David, please don’t take my mental confetti here personal… my boring empty words, just lifeless husk.
Thank you, Holger, for all your comments. I agree, up to a point, that the choice of words can sometimes make a big difference.
“Seeker” has a pejorative meaning to some nonduality enthusiasts, implying that we are never satisfied with anything, so we constantly seek. But the greatest of nonduality teachers have actually used the word “seeker” to mean one who has a burning desire for self-realization, or “earnestness”, which these teachers take to be helpful or even indispensable along the path they offer.
“Practice” can mean an obsessive procedure that only reinforces our belief in ourself as a separate self, a person having consciousness only as a minor attribute. But “practice” can also refer to abiding in unbounded consciousness, which some teachers have stated is both a method to achieve self-realization and the basic description of life in self-realization.
In my article, I used “spectrum” to refer to one dimension of the multi-dimensional variety displayed by the many teachers of nonduality. Certainly you would agree that Sri Nisargadatta, for example, is dramatically different in his teachings and teaching style from, say, Magdi Badawy, just to pick two teachers almost at random.
These comments are my opinion only. No certainty of absolute truth is meant to be inferred.
Thank you David!
Words are powerful, they either distract us or point us home.
Yes, words are always concessions.
David, this was an interesting read for me as it made me wonder, “do I categorize these different teachers? I categorize music, novels, poetry, etc.” I really haven’t done it with the non-dual teachers.
I hadn’t visualized how I connect them until now, but the best visual image I could find is a web, with concentric circles out from the center (the Self) and lines also radiating out from the center. The interconnections link the various teachings. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve read Ramana Maharshi and Nisargadatta for years, but it never helped me find the “center.” There were too many gaps, missing links. Rupert formed many of the interconnecting lines, and now I find Nisargadatta much more accessible. Mooji and Swami Sarvapriyananda also create lines and links that reinforce the structure.
I’m sure someone who is always at the center, immersed in the Self, might say, “the structure is an unnecessary illusion.” But at least for the time being, I need it as a tool.
As always, your thoughts are insightful; they also add to the “illusory structure.”
Loose chains, or none at all?
I’ve been thinking about this too. just how much, if any, freewill do we have? David frames a range between Mooji and Parsons – the latter claiming ‘nil’, and the former, some, with space for growth. I think both views are valid, and any in between.
Rupert says knowing one’s True Self, for most of us, appears to take time. It is gradual, in keeping with the delicate dismantling of decades of believing ourselves to be a finite bodymind .
My story is there’s a sheet of glass covered in fine dust. Awareness, my True Self, is on one side, and my bodymind identity survives apart, on the other . While the dust lies undisturbed I think and behave as a finite human being in a material world. But when the dust is disturbed, the patina broken through introspection or spiritual, philosophical (even scientific) endeavor, light of the True Self can enter and affect the bodymind.
A difference is made. There’s a palpable shift in thinking and feeling. This in turn dislodges more dust and so on…So for me yes, the bodymind can appear to help itself, with the blessing of Awareness.
On the other hand.. Is it possible that nothing, Nothing at all happens other than what must, including every word I’m writing , as independent as I wish them to be. Including the concomitant sinking feeling when the prospect of possessing no agency at all, sinks in.
Doesn’t the getting there get in the way of Being there!:-)
Maybe the idea of “getting there” can be replaced with “what needs to happen will happen”, or “Life takes care of life”, “God is love”, “reality is friendly”?
The “getting there” comes from the illusory separate-self; it only has meaning in connection with the delusion of “personal doer-ship”; once we can discern personal “me” from impersonal I am, here and now, we are “getting there” (-;
Interesting that ‘impersonal’ is the most loving/intimate, free of the “me” investment.
The universe is one fascinating and intelligent organism…
“it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom”.