I woke up last night because the cat was going crazy. I started reading Be As You Are, a spiritual book by an Indian guru named Sri Ramana Maharshi.
I’d heard Sam Harris talk before about nondual awareness, and I’ve been in Zen communities where there is a lot of talk about the relative and the absolute, but it was all sort of murky and abstract.
Somehow this passage from the book made these ideas click for me:
…The belief that there is a person who experiences a state…is not true. It is merely a mental construct. The truth of the Self is that there is only jnana (reality)…
What is dualism? It’s the distinction between ego and experience. This is baked into our language:
- Instead of saying, “There is fear,” we say, “I am afraid.”
- Instead of saying, “There is craving for chocolate,” we say, “I’m craving chocolate.”
What is non-dual awareness? It’s taking experience as the only thing that is, not telling ourselves stories about how this experience affects a character called “I.”
For example, if the cat wakes me up, I might tell myself any number of stories:
- “I’m going to be so tired today” or
- “I should have closed the door” or
- “The cat as an inconsiderate asshole.”
From a nondual perspective, I would just accept the bare experience of being awake at 1:00 AM, which could be anger, tiredness, excitement about having the chance to read, what have you.
Old habits die hard. And the habit of seeing the world dualistically is probably the oldest of all. So the path of awakening involves repeatedly glimpsing nonduality, true nature, the absolute, no-self, whatever one may call it. The claim of my meditation teachers is that by doing this during everyday life, moments of presence will become longer and continuous. And after a moment of presence, my job is to see it as the grace that it was, and let it fully absorb into my being.
What’s the benefit of this? Well, relief of suffering for one. Grasping the pleasant (cake and approval) and running from the unpleasant (broken arms and disapproval), can make life a drag if that’s all you do. Buddhists call it suffering. Bob Marley calls it a rat race.
A common criticism is: how can you take action without an ego? I think it’s possible that action can come from a stiller, wiser place. But I’m not sure. The only way is to try it out and see.