“Non-duality” points to the reality that there is no separation between us and the world. All is One. This is an absolutely beautiful truth, but it is only the first of two realizations that allow us to really be free.
Non-duality is not the final stop on the pathway to spiritual freedom. While Oneness may be the only absolute reality, we cannot live in it as humans. If forms are an illusion, than humans are an illusion. And though we may be able to “outsmart” our own brains, we will never be able to stop seeing forms that “don’t exist.”
Our mind is built for illusion. Without the dream world created by our senses, there would be no meaning to life. “I” wouldn’t exist. “You” wouldn’t exist. These “words” wouldn’t exist, and you wouldn’t be able to “read” them. And though you may know that your ego is an illusion, you cannot rid yourself of the ego experience.
What happens to the ego once it realizes that it is part of the Universe? It uses this “enlightenment” to reinforce its own illusion! The “I” doesn’t just disappear when we see through it. It clings to “awakening” like it’s a lifesaver in a storm-stricken sea!
The freedom of “awakening” comes not from eradicating the “I” from our mind. It comes from identifying our “I” to an immaterial realm, separate (yes, separate) from the oneness of the Universe.
I have a friend who knows all about non-duality. She understands all of the intellectual truths of the Universe. I tried to explain to her the separateness of our true Self, and she responded by saying that I was promoting duality in a non-dual reality. I left it at that, because I wasn’t sure how to respond. (This whole “duality”/“non-duality” stuff can make you a bit disoriented, and the last thing you want to do is turn spiritual sharing into spiritual shouting.)
But what I might have pointed out is the fact that our “Self” is a part of our mind we can never live without. We have to have some definition of “who we are,” because that is how our mind is built. She, for example, identifies her Self as “the Universe.” And because she is the Universe, she has power over what is Created.
But being the Universe in control of life isn’t much different than being a “human” in control of life. There is still the separateness of “me” controlling “life.” This is a perfectly natural experience. But it is still the ego, just a more subtle version of it. In order to allow “me” and “life” to truly become one, we have to sink even deeper, beyond the illusion of control.
Our “I” is utterly intangible, and exerts no influence over Creation. This is not a fact. In fact, there is no Self—it is a mental construct. This is a spiritual knowledge. This is a subjective realization. The intangible presence of our spiritual “Self” is no more false than form and color and love and everything else that gives “human” life meaning.
More than anything, isn’t that what matters, humans living in harmony? Harmony comes from identifying with the ethereal dimension that can’t be reduced by science or limited by thought. Consciousness is an illusion created by the mind, says science. Like the color blue. Or the feeling of love. I don’t care what science says. The sky is blue. Love is real. And I am Present for it all.
The trouble with non-duality is that it is only a pit stop on the way to being fully human. Humanity lies in duality, even if separateness is an illusion. Humanity is in tears for others’ suffering, not in the “reality” that suffering is a mirage. Humanity is color and creation, not a monotonous atomic sea.
The trouble with non-duality is really no trouble at all, as long as you get back on the train, and return to being human once again.