Archive for March, 2010

Musings on Non-Duality

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

Thinking about “non-duality”. I’ll be giving a talk tomorrow on it. This is a hard thing to think and talk about since all thinking (and talking) is inherently “dual”. All ideas and words appear in a context where things have separation – the standard subject-object distinction of grammar, the yin and yang of opposites, the distinction of nouns and verbs. All languages have these separations – though some more than others.

When we communicate we use words. We don’t need to use words to think, though there are plenty of kinds of thought that do. So, when we communicate about spiritual topics, we have to use words – at least in the traditional student-listening and teacher-talking kind of interaction. So, all spiritual communication is usually constrained by the subtle net of language.

This is one of the great things about Harding’s teaching ( – it tends to be more somatic, more sensory, and more experiential. The pointing (literally) of the finger, the view through the tube, or through the card, the emptiness of space – these get around the tight constraints of language. Words can describe the exercises. There’s a subtle trap, where you just read the words, understand them at the literal level, and think you know what they’re talking about – even if you’re a bit mystified and confused!

Meditation and other more physical spiritual practices (dance, chanting, ritual) also get around the limitations of words, though it’s also replete with subtle hidden sand bars and reefs. Easwaran’s “passage meditation” is particularly word-bound, being as that’s the actual practice. It is possible to reach a state of great stillness that way (he did, I’ve come close), but there’s nothing (except chance and grace) to nudge you over the edge, that infinitely receding horizon, into complete non-dual seeing.

So, tomorrow we’ll do the experiments, as well as have a period of silent meditation.

There’s another whole area where it gets confusing, aside from the problem that you can’t think about it – that is, more or less, that the complete non-dual state, the shining clear capacity of being, the dark and bright void – that it is capacity for everything. They call this “two way seeing” sometimes, and there’s definitely a duality of sorts going on – the emptiness and the fullness, creator and creation, Brahmin and Prakriti. I see this more as one tree trunk that has sap flowing both ways – perhaps a dangerous simile, but a nice idea. (I was thinking about the World Tree this morning – how it only sort-of looks like a “tree”. How it’s more the vast multi-dimensional knot that ties together all the worlds.)