Nonduality and Action in the World


For a philosophy – an approach to life – to thrive, it needs to be relevant. We need to consider if a spiritual philosophy matters to the quality of not only our personal sense of well being, but our place in the larger community. For this reason, we might ask ourselves if Advaita philosophy (nonduality) matters with respect to the world in which we live.
For nearly all of us, nonduality is esoteric. Unless you’ve been motivated to delve into the challenging writing about it, attended group sessions (called by their Indian name satsangs), or been following the growing number of nonduality youtube videos, you’re likely to know little if anything about this stream of thought.
The basic idea of nonduality is this: everything we experience is a manifestation of the single consciousness. We are, therefore, not our bodies or minds. In fact, identification with our bodies and minds is seen as a normal contraction of consciousness into the small self. Once this contraction is released, itself an expression of the one consciousness, we can live in the freer universe of the fully flowered consciousness, our larger and more expansive identity. We are everything we experience.
Like most Eastern philosophy, Advaita denies free will, since any action cannot be a consequence of personal will, but can only be of the one consciousness. Everything happens of itself. The freeness of life, as experienced within nonduality, is that of flowing with the immediacy of awareness. Thus we can even use more succinct language to describe its fundamental nature and that succinct approach would result in a single word: THIS!
This is all there is.
We are free to pursue political and environmental and social concerns realizing that no one is doing “it”, except for the single consciousness. Nothing is lost and nothing is gained, because there is only This. Any perception of gain or loss would be self-referential and thus an assessment from the perspective of the smaller self.
Thus, Advaita possesses no political or social agenda.
Or does it?
When the contraction of the personal “I” is released, which yields THIS, there is the understanding that we are “one” with whatever is arising in awareness. Thus there is an intimacy in Advaita that is lacking in the normative psychological self.
Let me give an example.
If I am walking my dog, there is the separate me walking with the separate dog. The dog is seen as a separate object. The process of walking may be experienced as a pleasant stroll in the neighborhood or an annoying chore, particularly if it’s snowing or raining or if I would prefer doing anything else.
But in Advaita there is no “I” walking a separate “dog”. There is, in fact, no dog. There is simply consciousness arising as This. The dog, her walker, and the environment (even the rain) arising as one flowing experience. Nothing is happening to anything, yet everything gets done. There are no separate objects, there is only a person (once thought of as “me”) and the appearance of consciousness (once seen as the dog named Shadow). It is all consciousness.
When it is experienced that we are not separate from anything, when, in fact, there is no we at all, there is just one entwined consciousness appearing as everything, the the underpinnings of conflict cease to exist, unless, of course, if they do. This is the fundamental line in the sand that divides nonduality (ironically) from the rest of normative human experience. As long as there are identities contracted into their apparent form and belief systems, there will be conflict. This is the play of consciousness taking any form that can potentially exist.
Thus Advaita is utterly irrelevant to the individual seeking answers to the many political, economic, environmental, and social concerns of his time. But since this person is ultimately seen as an appearance in consciousness, the issue, no longer matters.
Thus we are left with a kind of conundrum.
Here is a solution that is modestly offered by Liberation from the Lie. Explore nonduality. Challenge your most accepted beliefs. See if there is validity to its description of the world. The language used in Liberation from the Lie is quite distinct from mainstream Advaita. The emphasis in Liberation is connection. We are connected on every level. Thus the message, if I may use that term, in Liberation is very similar to that of Advaita and here is where I will make my best effort at a solution to the crisis of living in a complex world.
It is true (it seems) that consciousness IS. And, it is true that we exist only Now, but consciousness manifests as infinite potential. When we see that we are all connected within the one consciousness, we can free ourselves of the need to defend ourselves. We can relax! And, when we relax, we can explore what we love, even if we are tied to a job we might not love. We can challenge ourselves to express our connection in an infinite number of ways. It’s all up to the consciousness that you are. I believe that consciousness molds this universe to be expressive – to sing its song. How else could we explain the incredible diversity of life and experience. Consciousness is endlessly creative and we are its tools. So take the leap into what you love. You will be very happy you did. Express yourself. Sing your song. Dance – think – ponder – do – build. And however your dreams and doings unfold, that too will be the play of consciousness.
This is the ultimate paradox of living. Yes, there is only this one consciousness, but it expresses itself in a myriad of forms. Its actions are always creative. We can play the game of creation for its own sake. This is your invitation.


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  1. #1 by Anne on June 10, 2009 - 12:21 am

    Hi Eric,
    You wrote above, “When we see that we are all connected within the one consciousness, we can free ourselves of the need to defend ourselves.”

    The reason there is no need to defend ourselves is precisely because we are the one consciousness and there is no “me” to defend! How could there be a need to defend something or someone that does not exist?

    Anne

    • #2 by Eric on June 10, 2009 - 8:20 am

      Exactly! Your understanding is profound. Anytime we write anything, we can never know who will be reading the words we are putting down in the cyber paper. Those words written by this body were for people still grappling with the core issue of identity. It is to that group that I primarily write.
      However, I have also found that identity is a very slippery subject. I have known and spoken to many very “evolved” people who used the same words, but were still attached to an idea they “needed” to have about themselves.

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