The concept of non duality

What is non duality?

Sometimes referred to as nondualism, non duality is often referred to as a mature or heightened sense of consciousness. In most areas of human consciousness, any person is thinking about themselves and their relationship with the world, their spirituality and the wider universe. However, this necessarily means there is a dichotomy between the person and everything else, according to adherents of non duality. When a state of nondualism is achieved, the 'I' is transcended and a sense of consciousness is created in which no such dichotomies are present. In other words, non duality is consciousness which transcends any sense of individuality, and that is at one with the universe.

What are the origins of non duality?

The oldest evidence was found in India, coming up in some of the earliest known Hindu Sanskrit texts, known as Upanishads. For example, the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad and the Chandogya Upanishad, both place importance on the unity of the soul is a concept known as Atman. Also, the idea of nondualism is associated with some of the teachings of the Buddha, particularly with the so-called two truths doctrine.

How do Buddhist and Hindu traditions of non duality differ?

In Hinduism, non duality is frequently associated with the Advaita Vedanta tradition of Adi Shankara. In this tradition – although there are others that share its precepts – it is thought that the multiplicity of the whole of existence can be reduced to one essential reality. According to the Madhyamaka school of Buddhist thought, there is a non-dual relationship between conventional and ultimate truth. In other Buddhist traditions, more emphasis is placed on the 'false' duality of the mind and the body, where only consciousness really exists. In Zen traditions, more is made of how different concepts can connect with one another in perfect ways, so-called interpenetration.

Are there Western traditions of non duality?

Due to the duality taught in many Western religions, for example of heaven and hell, good and evil or sin and grace, some people believe that non duality plays no part in Western philosophies at all. However, it is present in some aspects of Gnosticism and Neoplatonism, to name but two traditions. Some Christian mystics believed in it, and the same can be said of some minor Jewish sects, as well. Transcendentalism also made much of non duality from the 19th century onwards. Out of this tradition, certain aspects of the 20th century New Age movement also delved into aspects of nondualism, too.

How can you experience non duality?

There are numerous techniques for experiencing this. Mystics often starved themselves or worked themselves up into a peak of heightened consciousness by repetitive acts, for example. In order to be at one with the whole universe, many people now use meditative processes and control their breathing so that their mind moves away from everyday matters to more universal and spiritual ones.

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