Monday, August 25, 2008

Advaita-Vedanta : Nonduality - Rising Above Illusion

By Remez Sasson

The philosophy of Nonduality, or as it is called in India, Advaita-Vedanta, says that there is just One Spirit in the Universe, and that everything, living or inanimate, is an inseparable and indivisible part of this One Spirit. Nonduality further says that it is only illusion, caused by the mind and the play of the senses, which makes us regard the world and everything in it, as real and separate from us.

For someone not familiar with this philosophy, it might sound strange and even weird, but once understood, it can completely change one's attitude and perspective about life.

Imagine a state, in which you feel oneness with the Universe, enjoying bliss and peace of mind, and at the same time acting and functioning normally in your day-to-day life. A state of being active in the world, yet maintaining a state of inner detachment. In this state you are aware of your oneness with the One Spirit, and also aware that the One Spirit is acting and manifesting through everything, matter, plants, trees, animals and people. This is the experience of nonduality in its highest form.

Our thoughts and five senses draw the mind outside, to the external world, and obscure the awareness of the consciousness that is beyond the mind. Through meditation, we gain inner peace and the ability to silence the mind and lift up the obscuring veil of thoughts, and are then able to taste and experience the "state" of nonduality. In this state of inner silence, one rises above the illusion of identification with the mind, thoughts and ego, gets beyond the illusion of separateness, and realizes the oneness with the One Spirit. It is as if a new sort of consciousness dawns, and one sees the world in a different way.

With this kind of consciousness we are able to allow the mind to be active or command it to be silent at our command. It becomes our faithful servant, instead of being our master. We function very effectively in the outer world, yet our basis is in pure, calm and limitless consciousness, which is not attached to anything and not limited by anything. In this state, we live and view the world from the nonduality point of view.

Though in our day-today life we regard other people, as separate from us, as separate units, this is only a mental viewpoint, convenient for functioning in our day to day life. From a higher state of consciousness, all are One, and the terms "I", "you", "he", "she" and "they" are not real. There is only the One Spirit, Consciousness, which manifests in limitless forms and ways. The outer forms might be different, but the Spirit within them is one undivided Spirit. It is the mind, which lets us believe and feel that we are separate from others, but we are all part of the the same One Spirit manifesting and expressing itself through diffrent forms.

The concept of nonduality is not a strange or weird idea. It can be experienced and lived right here and now, no matter where you are, and without attracting anybody's attention. It is an inner state of consciousness, not an external state.

It is possible to realize the meaning of nonduality and live in nonduality, which can lead to what is termed as spiritual awakening and enlightenment, in an ashram or a cave, and it is also equally possible to do so while living in a town or city, with family and a job. All you need is a strong desire, dedication, an open mind, and the willingness to invest time and effort in pursuit if this goal.

Most people cannnot afford to leave everything behind, in order to meditate and lead a purely spiritual life. Theye need to work and support their family, and can therefore devote only part of the day to spiritual pursuits. The good news is that you can walk on the inner path of spirituality and nonduality, meditation and self realization, without abandoning your family, job or outer life style. With proper planning, it is possible to find the time and the energy for the inner work.

Meditation and walking on the spiritual path, which can lead to understanding and experiencing nonduality, can be practiced anywhere, without making external changes in your life. You can stay with your job and family, and still make spiritual progress and realize the true meaning nonduality.

Look within you, search for the source of your thoughts, where they come from, and you will start to be aware of your true essence and the consciousness beyond your mind. You will then start to understand what nonduality really is. A peaceful mind is a great help in realizing nonduality, as well as concentration, meditation, reading of spiritual literaure, and when possible, the proximity and guidance of true spiritual teachers.

The Way to Realizing Nonduality

Even if you only accept the philosophy of nonduality in theory, you stop being hurt by people and outside events. You stop giving importance to unimportant matters, and get a glimpse of the taste of real freedom. When you free yourself from the erroneous idea that you are a separate ego, happiness, joy and inner strength step into your life.

By developing the power of concentration, and through meditation and detachment the mind becomes quiet, and nonduality becomes a fact for us. Then life is lived differently and in a better way.

A practical method that Sri Ramana Maharshi has taught and advocated, and which I can vouch for from personal experience is called the "Vichara".
It is a form of meditation in which you incessantly ask yourself in your mind the question, "Who am I?"

Do not try to find the answer through the mind. Just ask the question and let the answer come from the inside. Keep looking inside yourself and asking the question, and your awareness of this "I" will increase. You will find out that as your mind becomes concentrated and silent it becomes easier to experience this inner awareness.

Do not pay attention to the ideas and answers that come from your mind. The answer comes through the intuition, as an inner certainty and knowledge. It is not the mind that KNOWS. It is the PURE CONSCIOUSNESS, your real I that knows.

If the answer comes as a thought, ask yourself whose thought it is, and where did it come from. Look inside to find its source. This source is what we are seeking in this meditation.

This kind of meditation may be practiced often, and everywhere, not just while sitting and meditating at definite times. When the awareness of this "I" increases you will find that at times you experience a kind of a silent, free consciousness, and yet be able to function normally. You will know what Oneness means.

Though on the material level you continue to function as a separate unit, you come to understand the illusion of the world, and experience through your awakened consciousness the reality of nonduality and the Oneness of the Spirit. This is spiritual awakening and enlightenment.